Storytelling

The creative writing teacher in Todd Solondz's latest diatribe o­n white, suburban New Jersey says, "Once you start writing it all becomes fiction". Likewise, the film explores the nature of storytelling in two parts–Fiction & Non-Fiction, as well as the inherent ambiguities of filmmaking, juxtaposed with fictional and documentary narrative. Storytelling is Solondz's true to form follow-up to his other caustically comic ironies of upper-middle class America:  Welcome to the Dollhouse (1996), and Happiness (1998), with a host of characters that he alternately portrays as contemptuous or compassionate.

Fiction takes us to a second-rate, New Jersey college campus, circa 1985, where creative writing student Vi (Selma Blair), and her disabled boyfriend Marcus (Leo Fitzpatrick) are students of Gary Scott (Robert Wisdom), a bitter, Pulitzer Prize-winning, black professor with a ruthless penchant for skewering the works of his privileged, all-white class. Scott picks up Vi in a bar and later unceremoniously skewers her, a misadventure which becomes the basis of the distraught Vi's transparently fictional story of a rape, dismissed by her mostly-female class as mean-spirited, racist, and exploitative.

Non-Fiction is set in present-day New Jersey and follows the travails of aspiring wannabe filmmaker Toby Oxman (Paul Giamatti), who stumbles upon the disillusioned and disaffected high school senior Scooby Livingston (Mark Webber), and uses him and his family as the subject for his documentary o­n teen angst in suburbia, appropriately titled American Scooby. Again, Solondz explores the narrative themes of privilege and exploitation, victim and victimizer, and upends its consequences of hypocrisy and suffering as moral ground that, politically correct or not, is ready to be satirically overturned by the director's unrelenting digs.

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