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Rated 2.98 stars
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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Truth and Consequences
by Ryan Cracknell

"Once you start writing, it all becomes fiction." This is the thesis of Todd Solondz's Storytelling, a film that might make you want to head down to Denny's afterwards and talk about it over coffee and a slice of apple pie. However, save for a couple of shocking scenes, there's very little to chit-chat about in Storytelling, no matter how hard Solondz tries.

Solondz explores the boundaries of fact and fiction by splitting his story into two narratives appropriately titled FICTION and NONFICTION. FICTION follows university writer Vi (Selma Blair) as she deals with her short stories, her handicapped boyfriend (Leo Fitzpatrick), and her Pulitzer Prize-winning prof (Robert Wisdom), whom she might or might not be having sexual fantasies about. The end scene is raw, graphic and hard to watch. In order to garner an 'R' rating instead of the dreaded 'NC-17,' the MPAA ordered changes to be made. Solondz uses this situation to the film's advantage by simply tossing a couple of red rectangles onto the screen to cover the naughty bits.

NONFICTION revolves around a loser-in-life documentary filmmaker (Paul Giamatti) as he tries to define what it's like to be a teenager today. His subject: Scooby(Mark Webber), an unmotivated young man under pressure from his well-to-do parents to make something of his life.

But which of the films tells the truth and which is fabricated? Unless you turn a camera on and show it without any editing, not even documentaries convey the whole truth. Moments are left in while others are taken out. FICTION comes across as the more real of the two as it tries to get into the heads of the characters and present something that might actually happen. Running a little over 30 minutes, FICTION starts hitting its stride before ending abruptly.  Despite its claims, NONFICTION further proves there is no such thing as a truly real story. Editorial decisions are made, Scooby's parents mold the focus of the documentary by prodding at Giamatti's easily swayed Toby Oxman for a favorable light on their son. As NONFICTION unfolds, the scenes become increasingly outlandish and unbelievable. There's Solondz and his commentary again.

The basis of the director's arguments are clear. Perhaps even too clear. Theme dictates Storytelling instead of, well, a story. Solondz is not one to steer away from controversial topics. His previous film, Happiness left me more disgusted than any other film I've ever seen, mainly because of one character, a pedophile who is given a sympathetic point of view. But on the other hand, I consider any film that creates a passionate response to be successful to some degree, even if I totally disagree with the arguments.

Storytelling has considerable commentary but very little substance. FICTION uses scenes in a writing workshop as an all too easy device to discuss the role of stories. It's too simple and far too self-aware. The results are provocative, but left me cold. NONFICTION evoked a similar response. It meanders around, providing more horror but not much shock. It's also as aware of itself as FICTION, especially in the moments where Toby is told that he's exploiting his subject. That's exactly what Solondz is doing with the entire film.

I have respect for Solondz's provocative nature and I even agree with some of his points. But exploitation and shock are, in my book, not the most effective ways to start a discussion. With film as your platform, commentary is a tough thing to pull off. While Solondz tries -- and tries hard, Storytelling fails to provide much more insight than the inside column of a torn book jacket. (Review also posted at

Released by New Line Films and rated "R" for strong sexual content, language and some drug use.

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