Storytelling (2001)

storytelling poster 2001 movie
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 8/10

Great actors, interesting director

The stories need more developing and rounding

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Storytelling

Studio:  New Line Cinema

Genre(s):  Drama/Comedy

Release Date(s):  May 12, 2001 (Cannes)/January 25, 2002 (U.S.)

MPAA Rating:  R/Unrated

storytelling selma blair leo fitzpatrick

College writing classes aren’t this interesting

Fiction—A writing student named Vi (Selma Blair) and her boyfriend Marcus (Leo Fitzpatrick) with MS find themselves facing a tough professor (Robert Wisdom).  When Vi decides to go home with Mr. Scott, race, right and wrong, and truth and fiction all are at jeopardy.  Non-Fiction—Toby Oxman (Paul Giamatti) is a failed actor trying to make a documentary on teens.  He finds Scooby Livingston (Mark Webber) a druggy teen who doesn’t have any aspiration but fame and working for Conan O’Brien.  He’s dealing with his family led by Marty (John Goodman) and Fern (Julie Hagerty) and two brothers…plus his browbeaten housekeeper Consuelo (Lupe Ontiveros).  Will Scooby find fame?

storytelling conan obrien mark webber

NBC will give you a show kid…but they’ll probably take it away

Directed by Todd Solondz, Storytelling is an anthology comedy drama.  It received a limited release after a controversial R-Rating.  It was fairly well received by critics, but unlike many of Solondz’s films, there are no connections to other characters from his other films (other than it takes place in New Jersey).  The soundtrack was provided by Belle & Sebastian.

Storytelling is tricky.  The format is strange and hinders the movie.  There are two stories and the first story is rather short while the second story is longer and more developed.  Both stories feel like they are missing something and that they could have been individual films (especially Non-Fiction since it had really rich characters).  A third story starring Dawson’s Creek star James van der Beek was allegedly shot, but scrapped for unknown reason (Solondz isn’t big on analyzing his own work).

storytelling lupe otiveros

I’m crying because I deserve more scenes

Solondz like to push the issues.  The first story has Selma Blair sleeping with another student (Leo Fitzpatrick who also starred in the controversial Kids) and then being upset when he breaks up with her…indicating she didn’t think it would happen because of his MS.  She then jumps in bed with her professor and the tides are turned when she is forced to be racist as she’s essentially raped.  It is a weird blend that is tough to watch.  I do like the final message of the story is that as soon as something is committed to paper, it becomes fiction because even through word choice, an author puts a spin on things.

The second story is much more developed and much longer.  It has the great family dynamic that Welcome to the Dollhouse had where the whole family is so on edge and detached.  The story has a number of points where you think it is going to “go wrong”, but Solondz still manages to surprise you at the end.  I thought the horrible definition of “rape” by the housekeeper was going to end up part of the bad hypnosis job by the great younger brother Mikey (Jonathan Osser) who almost equals Dawn Wiener’s obnoxious little sister in Welcome to the Dollhouse.

storytelling ending mike schank paul giamatti mark webber

I don’t know if Mike Schank even knows he’s in the movie

With characters like Mikey, Solondz gets a lot from his actors.  I have to say I do love the cast.  The first story (except for Leo Fitzpatrick and a cameo by Mary Lynn Rajskub) is rather standard fare, but the second story has the great Paul Giamatti, John Goodman, Julie Hagerty (of Airplane! fame), and cameos by Mike Schank of the documentary American Movie and Franka Potente of Run, Lola Run with small roles.  Solondz knows how to cast and always picks interesting actors that compel you to watch…The single best performance in the movie is the housekeeper Consuelo played by the great Lupe Ontiveros.  She really controlled the few scenes she was in.

storytelling red box sex scene r rated nc-17

What’s going on behind the red box isn’t that interesting

The big controversy surrounding Storytelling involves the infamous “red box”.  During the “Fiction” story, Selma Blair has sex with her teacher in a way that the ratings board would not approve for an R-Rated movie.  Getting the NC-17 rating often means death so to solve the problem (and to stick it to the ratings board), Solondz put a big red box that said “censored” over Blair and Robert Wisdom.  The ratings board objected to “censored” being on the box because they aren’t a censorship organization (allegedly) so a blank red box appeared in the theater release of the film.

Storytelling is not my favorite movie, but it is worth checking out if you are a Solondz fan.  The movie has some meaning and definitely raises discussions.  I just wish it was a better balanced film, or as originally planned, maybe a bit longer to round out the stories and bring a better understanding to what Solondz was trying to say.  Check out Storytelling (plus on the DVD you can get rid of that red box).

Related Links:

Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995)

Happiness (1998)

Life During Wartime (2009)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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