Storytelling is the third film by written and directed by Todd Solondz, and continues in his tradition of wickedly funny, almost to the point of morbid, humor. Storytelling gained notoriety due to a love scene between Selma Blair and Robert Wisdom that the MPAA deemed to steamy. Rather than cutting, editing, or reshooting the scene, Solondz (Welcome to the Dollhouse, Happiness) opted to place a red box over the actors. It was his way of protesting what he believed was censorship of his film. It is a bold move, yet it borders on the pretentious, like the rest of this movie. Storytelling consists of two stories, "Fiction" and "Non-Fiction." Both are unrelated aside from the fact that they both touch upon some creative aspect, writing for the first and filming for the second.

"Fiction" is the first and more interesting segment. It revolves around Vi (Blair, Legally Blonde, Down to You), a graduate student. She is dating Marcus (Leo Fitzpatrick, Serendipity, Bubble Boy), a boy who has cerebral palsy. They are both in Mr. Scott's (Wisdom, Rocky Road, Osmosis Jones) writing class. Scott is a Pulitzer Prize winner, and seems to enjoy belittling his students' papers in front of the entire class. Vi is attracted to Scott, yet is unsure whether the feelings she has toward him embody ingrained racist sentiments. She respects his work, but is shaky on him as a person. Scott has more sinister ulterior motives towards Vi. Blair and Scott do well enough to make the audience uneasy with what his happening, but in the end, Solondz never really makes any sort of statement.

The meandering worsens in "Non-Fiction." It deals primarily with Toby Oxman's (Paul Giamatti, Planet of the Apes, Duets) attempt to make a documentary. He decides to follow Scooby Livingston (Mark Webber, Boiler Room, Snow Day), a lazy, unfocused teenager, as he tries to decide what to do with his life. He wants to be a talk show host, but has no desire to go to college. His father Marty (John Goodman, My First Mister, Monster's Inc.) constantly clashes with Scooby over his future. Scooby's brother Mikey (Jonathan Osser, Max Keeble's Big Move, Eight Days a Week) is a prissy, smart child who constantly questions the maid (Lupe Ontiveros, Gabriela, Chuck & Buck). He doesn't realize that the two are from very different worlds, and that his questions are extremely offensive. Meanwhile, Oxman's editor (Franka Potente, Blow, The Princess and the Warrior) constantly asks for more focus in his documentary.

While less compelling, "Non-Fiction" is a little deeper. It delves into the creative process, something Solondz presumably wanted the viewer to see in Storytelling. Oxman has a specific idea of what he wants to do, but it is not very good and he is not doing a great job of it. People like his editor and Mikey are trying to shape his vision of what he wants, and to a degree, he lets them do it. Scooby is like Oxman. He has no direction, and worse, no ambition. The characters do not have much depth, so there is nothing for the audience to care about or take interest in. Solondz takes many potentially interesting plot points and then lets them hang, especially in an unsatisfying ending.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 24 minutes, Rated R for strong sexual content, language, and some drug use.

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