Projections - Movie Reviews



Writer-director Todd Solondz displays his unabashedly original ideas as he unleashes anxiety and pain from a dysfunctional, dauntingly personality.

This bold, unflinching work is, at times, searingly witty.  Though initially planned as a three-segment film, Storytelling is trimmed down into two lop-sided parts, "Fiction" and "Non-Fiction."  They cover similar sensitive issues like sexuality and race.  Solondz taps into the despondent undercurrent running through his touchy stories, but the impact of this front-loaded satire of higher education and suburbia wanes into a deconstruction that ends up un-fulfilling.

The controversial elements quickly rise to the surface in the terse, yet absorbing "Fiction."  The first part of Storytelling tracks the tension at college in the mid-80's between female student Vi a pinkish blonde Selma Blair (Legally Blonde) and a sensitive boyfriend Marcus (Leo Fitzpatrick).  Figuring potently into Vi's racially influenced life is their creative writing professor, Gary Scott, a piercing Robert Wisdom.

Vi doesn't seem content to Marcus, who has cerebral palsy and his affliction seemed to be a chance for her to be with someone unlike most freshmen she's gone out with.  A critical analysis during a class of Marcus' story supplements student condescension with biting evisceration by the black Pulitzer Prize winning author that leads to the most compelling, if disturbing moments of an uneven, often melancholic Storytelling.

Blair acts her part with a physical and psychological edge on Vi that has her strongly attracted to a dominant man leading into a skewering of censorship.

The setting of Fairfield, New Jersey is used to uncover the angst of modern teen life as uncovered by an underachieving New Yorker, Paul Giamatti's earnest Toby Oman.  Making ends meet in a shoe store, he sees his vocation as a documentary film maker with Toby acting like the director's alter ego.

The rest of "Non Fiction" concerns the exploitation of the Livingston family, with the focus on the dislocated Scooby Livingston (Mark Webber) perpetually pushed by his Jewish parents, a jaded John Goodman and Julie Hagerty to do well on his SAT's.

One can perceive the psychological ramifications as the Livingston clan is hit by a tragedy on a high school football field and Scooby's disaffecting lifestyle which proves unfair for at least one sibling.

It seems that the gifted Solondz wouldn't make the grade in Mr. Scott's creative writing class, as Storytelling structurally proves dispiriting despite lacerating motifs.


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