I’ve watched my fair share of dark films for this blog. Films that were so dark it seemed as if no rays of light could possibly escape it. The Savages and Tess spring immediately to mind. However, the film I just watched, 2001?s Storytelling is a black hole of never-ending despair that make the darkest films I’ve reviewed for this blog seem like brightly-colored neon rainbow fireworks, and in a bit of confusing irony that I can’t really explain, the film’s ostensibly a comedy, but in that ironic, cynical, depressing way that somehow works. This film is far from something I can recommend for even the most jaded and cynical of my readers, but at the same time, I thought it was very well-made and thought-provoking even if I feel I need to take a shower to wash the grime of this film off of me.

The plot of Storytelling is broken into two short films that don’t interact or (as far as I could tell) have anything to do with each other. The first film “Fiction” is about a girl in a college creative writing class named Vi (Selma Blair) who is dating one of her classmates, a boy with cerebral palsy named Marcus (Kids‘ Leo Fitzpatrick). Marcus’ short story is eviscerated by his classmates and their masochistic professor, the Pulitzer Prize winner Mr. Scott (The Wire‘s Robert Wisdom), and in a moment of spiteful rage, he dumbs Vi. Vi decides to get over her relationship with Marcus by having sex with Mr. Scott who she runs into at a bar. However, Mr. Scott is as masochistic in the bedroom as he is in class and his rough treatment of Vi flings her right back to Marcus. Vi writes about her sexual experience for a story for the class but none of her classmates find the story believable and rip her story apart as well.

The other section (and far more involved story) is that of a boy named Scooby Livingston (Mark Webber) who has practically no aspirations in life, except perhaps to be Conan O’Brian’s sidekick. This is a serious problem for his archetypically suburban parents (one of which is a quite frightening John Goodman). Mark gains the attention (completely on accident) of a struggling documentary film-maker, Toby Oxman (the always brilliant Paul Giamatti), who wants to explore what the reality is for high school students in the new millennium. Without wanting to ruin what all happens during this particular story, let’s just say that things start out miserable and end up at truly horrific.

The film is grounded in its stellar cast. I know Robert Wisdom primarily as Bunny Colvin on The Wire, where he played one of the most morally grounded people in the series (even if he did legalize drugs in Hamsterdam). Seeing him play such a complete dick was a real shock and he nailed the role. My familiarity with Selma Blair’s ouevre is restricted to the terrible chick flicks she’s made like Legally Blonde and The Sweetest Thing. To see her play such a vulnerable and sexual character was quite a role reversal as well. Paul Giamatti is my favorite character actor on the planet, bar none, and no one plays nebbish, neurotic losers better than he does (except maybe Woody Allen), and Toby was another role he was simply born to play. This wasn’t Sideways or American Splendor, but those are also his two best roles so that’s a lot to live up to. I haven’t seen John Goodman be this scary since Barton Fink where he played a serial killer so it was interesting.

The primary question you should ask yourself if you plan on watching this is do you have a pure soul. If you do, it won’t be pure by the time this film is over. It will suck the life out of you, and you will have to play with puppies and babies in order to become happy again. If that sounds like your kind of movie, then go ahead and watch it. It’s easily the most darkly comic film I’ve ever watched and I’ve watched my fair share of those types of films. I will probably never watch this ever again, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t think this was an incredibly compelling and interesting film. It just means my soul can only handle so much.

Final Score: B+