Cover of "Storytelling"

Cover of Storytelling

Todd Solondz‘s Happiness (1998) was such an insufferable film it prompted me to wonder whether Solondz was the slightest bit capable of ever creating a good one.  His 2002 offering, Storytelling, proves that he is, in addition to demonstrating just how puny his talent is for anything exceeding half an hour.  Two independent tales, you see, constitute Storytelling, and only the 30-minute one (“Fiction”), not the hour-long one (“Nonfiction”), works.  In the latter we get confused and meretricious trash about a documentary filmmaker and the Jewish American family he will camera-shoot.  The story never clicks.  Solondz handles the material with cynical misanthropy, of course, but he does the same with the shorter “Fiction,” with a nice result.

“Fiction” tells of a lefty college girl (Selma Blair) who is callously dumped by her cerebral-palsied boyfriend before taking “solace” in the anal sex ministrations of her black creative-writing professor.  He all but rapes her.  The story concerns the fictions on which people feed so indulgently that they refuse to look sordid behavior straight in the face.  It concerns idealism in a vacuum.  Solondz scores with concision and wit, and has worked well with the actors in “Fiction.”  It’s a very sexy thirty minutes too, but with none of the foolish offensiveness of Happiness. 

A laughable nihilist, at least Solondz has not destroyed the whole of Storytelling.