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Described as a "fable of innocence," his latest film allows Todd Solondz to savor the profound flavor of moral complexity. (Wellspring Media)
Writer/director Todd Solondz has no patience for formulas or safe choices. Most filmmakers, after making a movie as commercially unsuccessful and critically slammed as the underrated Storytelling, would strive to broaden their appeal. Solondz, instead, made Palindromes, a movie about a troubled young girl named Aviva whose only goal in life is to have children--a goal that leads her through abortion, religious extremism, pedophilia, and more. But for many viewers, the plot isn't as off-putting as the casting: Over the course of the movie, Aviva is played by eight very different actresses (including Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rush). Like Solondz's other movies (including Welcome to the Dollhouse and Happiness), Palindromes initially seems emotionally brutal and absurd, but gradually grows engaging and even moving, albeit in strange and unexpected ways. Palindromes is given an extra boost by a hypnotic, emotionally unleashed performance by Ellen Barkin (The Big Easy, Drop Dead Gorgeous) as Aviva's mother. --Bret Fetzer
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Final comment: There is a section, my favorite part, where a dozen handicapped children are under the care of a Mrs. Sunshine, a religious fanatic matriarch. Their talk of being in a loving, happy family is scripted. They come across as happy-talk androids. Mrs. Sunshine is a desperate, lonely women. It appears this section of the film had to be inspired by the award-winning documentary My Flesh and Blood, about a lonely single mother who adopts handicapped children.
Strange film indeed. If you're a Solendz fan, then for sure you'll enjoy much in Palindromes. Just don't expect it to be as good as his best.
This is a demented tale about the destruction of innocence. A young girl named Aviva has one big dream--have a baby any way possible. She falls just short of holding up a big sign on the corner saying "PLEASE KNOCK ME UP!". Her parents understandably try to dissuade her efforts, so she runs away. Needless to say her trip will evoke all kinds of reactions.
The character Aviva is played by seven or eight different girls, all of them unique--differing in age, size, and race. This is an odd element to the story, since Aviva's appearance changes frequently. This could have been done to illustrate different emotions or attitudes in the young girl. But really I think it points out that the actual character doesn't really matter, it could be the story of any young girl.
Another interesting point the movie makes is the idea that people don't really ever change. Despite your weight, age, financial status, plastic surgery, sex change, whatever...you are essentially the same person no matter what. We are robots programmed arbitrarily by nature's genetic code. I found that an interesting point, but hopefully there is no truth to that.
I strongly recommend that you check out any of Todd Solondz work. This movie pretty much ends where Welcome to the Dollhouse leaves off, but is not important to watch it first. All of Todd's films may seem brash and provocative, but underneath the surface they all harness an unbridled sense of compassion and sensitivity. It's like nothing you've ever seen before.
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I am a big fan of Todd Solondz and I am only giving this movie three stars instead of two because it is him.Read more