Blurring the line between truth and fiction

By Malwina Gudowska

The best word for Todd Solondz’s Storytelling is intense-a movie made to shock. This shock value is so grotesquely obvious in the first segment, “Fiction,” that you’ll walk away shaking your head, wondering why certain artists feel the need to automatically associate artistic value with sexuality.

"Fiction" is about Vi (Selma Blair), a college student in a creative writing class with her boyfriend, Marcus (Leo Fitzpatrick), who has cerebral palsy. As the movie progresses, they break up and Vi has a one night stand with their professor Scott (Robert Wisdom). Scott represents the darker side that Vi wants to experience, with fantasies of rough sex and rape. Marcus, on the other hand, represents the safer, politically-correct side of Vi’s life because of his disability.

All three characters represent the struggling writer, each sharing parallels their live and their stories. As they begin to write, the line separating reality and fiction blurs.

The second segment, "Non-Fiction," is just as intense but has a much better storyline and features a great performance by John Goodman as Mr. Livingston. "Non-Fiction" follows the story of an aspiring documentary filmmaker (Paul Giamatti) whose subject becomes Scooby Livingston (Mark Webber), a pot smoking, uninspired suburban high school kid.

The story is filled with dark humour and satire, and Solondz does a wonderful job mocking the American suburban family. The Livingstons are often seen at the dinner table discussing Scooby’s non-existent college plans, ending most often with Mr. Livingston telling someone to get out.

The youngest son, Mikey (Jonathan Osser), has many conversations with the El Salvadorian maid, Consuelo (Lupe Ontiveros), who is exploited, poor and often taken advantage of by not only the family but this young boy.

Solondz makes us laugh at the audacity of these characters, but we later realize this is something we shouldn’t be laughing at. Storytelling does not evade any possible taboo subject. It deals with issues of racism, rape, homosexuality and physical disability, seemingly at random. At first, this movie appears a horrible excuse for art but, examined further, deals with issues that, no matter how random, are real–Families like the Livingstons do exist in suburban America. These issues are unthinkable, unspoken of and Storytelling forces us to react to them. For that, Solondz deserves credit. Storytelling received an R rating for its explicit scenes, so keep in mind it’s not a light Sunday matinee.