Bomb Rating: 

One has to wonder why Todd Solondz ever got into filmmaking if he's so sensitive. Not only is the guy a geek's geek, but apparently he doesn't like people interpreting his films. I know for a fact that Solondz has taken exception to the labeling of his characters as freaks because he's clinically unable to detach himself from his fictional creations.

Lo and behold, Solondz is out to get his critics with "Storytelling," a film broken into two vignettes, titled "Fiction" and "Non-fiction" (I forget which is which, but that's the point). The first story features a writing student, Vi (Selma Blair), whose affair with an African-American writing teacher (Robert Wisdom) turns truly Solondztic when he makes her scream racial epithets during rough anal sex. She writes a short story about the event and is accused by her classmates of being vulgar, racist and a liar. Her cries of "butt it's true!" go unacknowledged.

In the second story, a documentary filmmaker, Toby Oxman (Paul Giamatti) (who looks so much like Solondz it's a little bit freakish), makes a film about a directionless teenager, Scooby (Mark Webber), whose only life goal is to become a talk show host. Scooby's family, it turns out, is a middle class mess. His father, Marty (John Goodman), is a hypocrite. His mother (Julie Hagerty) is a wide-eyed yes girl. One brother seems fairly normal while the youngest one, Mikey (Jonathan Osser), tortures the maid (Lupe Ontiveros) with his deranged bourgeois values while whining for her to clean up the messes he makes because he can't do a damn thing for himself.

The only point I'm able to glean from Solondz's little Sartrian trips into hell is that everybody has the capacity to be an asshole. He opens the movie with Vi screwing her boyfriend, Marcus (Leo Fitzpatrick), who has Multiple Sclerosis. Marcus ends up supporting this theory by eventually calling Vi the worst name he can muster. By the end of the movie, Solondz is so wrapped up in his misanthropic overdose that he can't steer clear of turning the maid into a monster as well.

The history of the tortured artist is a long and painful one. If Todd Solondz can't digest the very simple problem of artistic intent and popular interpretation, he might want to consider flipping hamburgers for a living.

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