Abe Wertheimer (Jordan Gelber) is an underachieving schlub. Fat and 35, he lives with his parents (Mia Farrow and Christopher Walken) and stocks his bedroom with fantasy-film posters and Simpsons action figures more suitable for a 12-year-old. Yet when he kisses Miranda (Selma Blair), a fellow chronic depressive, she muses, “Oh God, that wasn’t horrible.” One or two women, including his father’s secretary (Donna Murphy), love Abe, in the way a child may protectively cherish an injured gerbil. Or their affection exists only in one of Abe’s daydreams, which appear frequently and furtively in Todd Solondz’s sweet, neurotic romantic comedy. Some folks see a sadistic, derisive side to Solondz’s earlier films (Welcome to the Dollhouse, Happiness, Life During Wartime); we think they show a daring empathy for ordinary people capable of awful behavior. Any misapprehension about the writer-director’s attitude is erased by watching Dark Horse. Ugly is beautiful in Solondz’s gentlest triumph.
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