Movie Review by EDF
Starring: Selma Blair, Jennifer Elise Cox, Paul Giamatti, Leo Fitzpatrick, Steve Railsback
Director: Todd Solondz
STORYTELLING, the third feature to be written and directed by Todd Solondz, comprises two stories. Both stories are set around American college life and before you think this is another one of those AMERICAN PIE or ROAD TRIP type movies, it is not. Quite the opposite in fact that here, at times, is a serious but lighthearted look at the pressures young students face and the consequences and growth from their actions.
The first story, which is the shortest out of the two, entitled FICTION is set in the mid 80’s. Tracing the complicated relationship between two students, Marcus (Leo Fitzpatrick) and Vi (Selma Blair) and between student Catherine (Aleksa Palladino) and the resentful, angry and bitter teacher Mr. Gary Scott (Robert Wisdom). While things seem to be going well between them, Marcus fears that Vi might be getting bored with him. Having to write a composition for class and then read it out loud the next day for the rest of the class, Marcus believes Vi when she says that his piece is good but is subsequently humiliated by Mr. Scott, the creative writing professor. Leaving Marcus to go off and sulk, Vi ends up at a bar and finds Mr. Scott drinking by himself. Seducing Vi, they both go back to Mr. Scott’s apartment where Vi finds a set of photographs of fellow student Catherine and Mr. Scott performing S&M. Will Vi succumb to Mr. Scott?
The second story is entitled NON-FICTION and principally is about filming a reality-style movie documentary. Toby (Paul Giamatti) has pretty much failed with everything in life except for the one dream which he hasn’t pursued yet, to be a successful filmmaker. His topic will be about the pressures that students go through when making choices regarding their next level of education. Instead he focuses on Scooby Livingston (Mark Webber), a disillusioned dope-smoking student. Toby sees some of himself in Scooby whose dream is to become a late night talk show host. Toby enthusiastically convinces Scooby’s parents Marty (John Goodman) and Fern (Julie Hagerty) to become part of the documentary.
As we follow the rest of the family, we find Scooby’s two younger brothers have their own objectives. Brady (Noah Fleiss) is a typical sporty American boy with an attractive girlfriend although he turns out to be not that bright. Mikey (Jonathan Osser), being the youngest gets away with manipulating people so much that his devious actions include getting their housemaid fired.
The great thing about Todd Solondz’s writing is the way he takes standard stereotypical characters and injects a little something that makes each one a bit more believable. In both tales we come across characters that can be and in some cases what to be manipulated, the manipulators and the aftermath of the said events. The teaming up of John Goodman and Julie Hagerty as emotionally opposite parents is an inspiring one as Goodman acts likes a stern father figure who bullies his children if they step out of line against Hagerty’s soft approach. While there are some funny moments, overall the storytelling will grab your attention from start to finish. And that is very rare with an industry reliant on gimmicks to tell a story.