Top critical review
A Fantastic Concept with some Sadly Amateurish Execution
on April 29, 2014
The first thing you should know about this film is that most reviewers out there seem to have completely misinterpreted it. There some who call it a cruel parody of economic-class divisions; others say Solondz -- like Paul Giamatti's documentarian in the film -- is simply interested in exploiting his characters' cemented status as losers for his own benefit. Such interpretations are myopic and completely wrong.
Roger Ebert got it right (look up his review -- it's worth a read) when he said that it's an exploration of the motivations artists have for creating stories. And, as Ebert said, there's a confessional element to it, yes, but I'd say it goes even further and looks at why *anyone* frames the stories they tell, and even how we all interpret our respective places in the world. If we need to lie to others or to ourselves in order to gain some advantage or even just find some motivation to keep going, doing so is no problem for most of us. Truth becomes fictionalized, and falsehood gets passed off and accepted as truth.
I loved this concept and Solondz's general approach to it, so as a huge fan of _Welcome to the Dollhouse_, I really wanted to love this film. I was incredibly disappointed, then, in the execution. One major problem is that several of the actors (Leo Fitzpatrick, Mark Webber, Noah Fleiss, Andrew Marantz) just don't cut it; as a result, a number of scenes that should have been really emotionally poignant, simply fall flat or distract with their poor quality.
The directing, editing and some of the cinematography also go far in undercutting _Storytelling's_ potential. Even when the actors nail it (Selma Blair, Paul Giamatti, John Goodman, Julie Hagerty, Jonathan Osser, Lupe Onteviros), the air is let out by an awkward cut, a lifeless camera angle, a boring directorial choice. Solondz's fairly conventional presentation of his material worked perfectly in _Welcome to the Dollhouse_, because there, it created a frankness that caused that film's sometimes ultra-squirmy content to hit the viewer even harder. But in _Storytelling_, the style (approaching a total lack of style) just makes it look like he doesn't know what he's doing.
In the end, I can recommend this one as an imaginative examination of an important element of human psychology -- but it falls far short of being as good as Solondz's other work.