Dark Horse tells of Abe (Gelber), a privileged, balding, overweight, college dropout, who, at the age of 35, still lives in his parents’ house, works for his father in a job he doesn’t deserve, collects action figures and drives a ridiculous yellow Hummer – you know what they say about first impressions. Well, they count and the most succinct way to describe Abe is – a loser.
We first meet Abe at a wedding. He is sitting alone at a table with a beautiful girl, Miranda (Blair), who is as high as a kite on prescription medication for depression. Abe painfully strikes up a conversation with Miranda and in his blissful ignorance pressurises her into giving him her number, completely unaware of her obvious reluctance.
What follows this brief meeting is what can only be described as a whirlwind romance - except hold the romance. After their encounter at the wedding and following a pathetic date, Abe tells Miranda that she is the girl he wants to marry. Abe and Miranda are two depressed and unhappy people; compatible they certainly are not.
Miranda (surprisingly, or not) agrees to marry Abe because she believes that this could be what she needs to stop her pain - marry him, have kids, throw away her dreams of a literary career, independence and self-respect and maybe find happiness. This could be the only time throughout the film that you feel an ounce of sympathy for the pathetic Abe. Miranda says: "I want to want you." Abe replies: "That’s enough for me." This exchange broke my heart. Abe is throwing away his life (or lack of) in search of happiness, but it is clear he isn’t going to find it here. Dark Horse has a poignant touch ingrained in the dark humour.
But just when you think Dark Horse is just about mundane people who are stricken with a sense of inertia, Solondz spices it up a little and as the film progresses he gradually blurs the lines between reality and fantasy in what become Abe’s dreams.
On one level this is a depressing film, but on another it is full of humour. Abe’s father, played by a glum Walken, and mother, played by an airy-fairy Farrow, are great additions to the film. Donna Murphy's performance as Abe’s father’s secretary also adds a lot to the story - her transformation from straight-laced secretary to feisty cougar is brilliant.
This is an odd-yet-fulfilling film. The way Solondz blurs the lines not only between reality and fantasy, but also between satire and tragedy, is as interesting as it is confusing.
If you like happy endings, be warned: you’re not going to get one here. Some may think that Abe deserves all that comes to him, and more. But you will be left with the niggling questions, like how did Abe get this way? And is it really his fault? If anything, this film manages to be funny, sad and honest at the same time.