People always end up the way they started out. No one ever changes, one character says in Todd Solondz's significantly titled 2004 film Palindromes — an observation put to the test in Dark Horse, Solondz's latest tale of genetic-lotto losers in the New Jersey suburbs. Abe (an excellent Jordan Gelber) is a schlubby, Diet Coke-pounding, action-figure-collecting, tantrum-prone 35-year-old living at home with a mollycoddling mother (Mia Farrow) and a father (Christopher Walken) who unfavorably compares Abe to his physician brother (Justin Bartha, who, like all of Abe's male nemeses, is curiously effeminate). Piloting his yellow SUV through a wasteland of multiplex cinemas and Toys R Us's, spurred on by vapidly optimistic radio pop holding out the promise of reinvention (Reach out for more/And make it better than it's been before), Abe attempts to defy a lonely fate by courting a woebegone, medicated-to-numbness woman, Miranda (Selma Blair), who passively allows herself to be swept along with Abe's domestic fantasies while responding to him with obliviously cruel comments in a shuddering, hurts-to-breathe tone. Whether Abe's eventual Pyrrhic victory is a joke or a tragedy is a moot point, like the argument, dating from 1995s Welcome to the Dollhouse, as to whether Solondz is a caricaturist or humanist. With Solondz's old-hat funeral deadpan and his efforts to pass off Abe's adolescent rage as elevated insight, Dark Horse is neither incisively black-hearted nor particularly attuned to human behavior — proof that some directors, at least, do end up the way they started out.