Palindromes Reviews

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Bill D 2007
Super Reviewer
November 22, 2009
"Palindromes" is intermittently engaging but overall does not have much of a point. The plot focuses on a girl who's about 13 and wants to have a baby. Because her parents will not allow her to pursue this dream, she runs away, hoping to get impregnated someday. Along the way, she meets Christian anti-abortion activists and lives with them for a while. This sequence is by far the best in the film. She also attempts to have an affair with a man, which is quite creepy to watch. Writer/director Todd Solondz has explored pedophilia (and the opposition to it) in several of his films. I'm not exactly sure why he finds it so interesting.

Abortion is another big theme. The main character is forced by her parents to get an abortion early in the film, and she later becomes stridently (even maniacally) pro-life. Again, I was not seeing what drove Solondz to include this hot-button social issue in his screenplay.

The central gimmick in the production is that five or six different actresses play the girl, including two instances where adults play her. One of these adults is Jennifer Jason Leigh in a brief sequence. I didn't find that this technique revealed anything that significant, but I appreciate Solondz' willingness to experiment with form.

The biggest problem is that the film never takes any of its interests seriously. The adventures that the runaway girl has are explored in only a very circumspect and superficial way. Most of the actresses portray her as highly lethargic, and I started to feel as phlegmatic as her while watching the film. Solondz likes to look at the dark underbelly of mainstream suburban culture, but he does not explore it with much gusto or insight. He just kind of glances at it. This makes his films rather slight.

A palindrome, incidentally, is a word that is spelled the same backwards and forwards, like Aviva, the name of the main character. Nothing in the film indicates why Solondz finds this so intriguing as to name the film as he did. And if he told me, I bet I'd find it only mildly interesting.
Super Reviewer
September 23, 2009
It?s a bit complicated but its bold and very original! Typically disturbing while being quite tender, what will Solondz do next?
Super Reviewer
½ January 13, 2009
More than just a sequel to Welcome to the Dollhouse, this is a companion piece. Much more abstract than it's predecessor, Palindromes delves a little deeper into teenage sexuality and it's relationship with self image and self esteem. A very dynamic and off-beat film.
Super Reviewer
½ January 26, 2009
Todd Solondz's strangest & imo weakest film
Super Reviewer
½ May 6, 2007
Poor 13 year girl can't have a baby, but REALLY wants one.

and you know what this is? the worlds smallest violin playing "my heart cries for you"
Super Reviewer
October 25, 2007
This movie is totally good...if you like kids having sex with other kids, murdering adults, and other such things. For no reason the actors change, but the characters remain the same. I wanted more, because palindromes are neat. I got POOP.
Super Reviewer
½ September 16, 2007
I tried to like this film, but just couldn't.
Super Reviewer
February 8, 2011
With "Palindromes," writer-director Todd Solondz's intentions are hard to fathom. His primary thrust seems to be an attack on anti-abortionists, but his targeted characters are so extreme (they plot to murder doctors who perform abortions) that it's grossly unfair to view them as symptomatic of the movement. But at the same time, he offers little reason to support his protagonist Aviva. (Her name is a palindrome, get it?) She's dim-witted, malleable and listless, and Solondz further distances us from her by having 10 (10!) different actresses portray her throughout the film. And sorry to say, the most prominent of them is deeply unappealing. He costumes most of them in an ugly, belly-baring top, besides. So, where do our sympathies lie? The only appealing character is a young boy named Peter Paul, but he eventually turns out to be just another fanatic. Bad vibes everywhere.

"Palindromes" is a sequel of sorts to Solondz's watershed "Welcome to the Dollhouse," and it opens with the funeral of that film's Dawn Wiener, who apparently killed herself after being impregnated by a date rapist. Cheery stuff -- thanks for the closure. We also discover she became overweight and acne-riddled, so that's a bonus. At least one character does recur from "Dollhouse": Dawn's brother Mark (Matthew Faber), now a peculiar man accused of child molestation.

Otherwise, we're introduced to Aviva, a 13-year-old girl who has no interest in sexual pleasure but desperately yearns to be pregnant. When a naive friend inadvertently obliges her (they have sex within hours of meeting, while their parents chat downstairs), Aviva's parents (Ellen Barkin and Richard Masur, in thankless roles) demand she get an abortion. After the procedure has sad complications that Aviva doesn't even realize (so, is Solondz pro-choice or not?), she runs away from home and meets various distasteful people who do her no good. Along the way, a degree of perverse entertainment is provided by "The Sunshine Singers," a fictional group of handicapped/diseased children who sing and dance creepy, Christian-pop tunes. Just wait until the "Glee" crowd discovers this film.
Super Reviewer
May 1, 2005
[font=Century Gothic][color=magenta]Dawn Weiner is dead.[/color][/font]
[font=Century Gothic][color=#ff00ff][/color][/font]
[font=Century Gothic][color=#ff00ff]At the beginning of "Palindromes", it has been nine years since "Welcome to the Dollhouse" was released and time has not treated the Weiner family well.(Mark Weiner has been accused of being a pedophile.) Teenager Aviva does not want to share Dawn's fate of committing suicide. She wants to be happy and have a baby. She does get pregnant but is persuaded to have an abortion by her mother. Afterwards, Aviva runs away to Kansas while assuming the name Henrietta along the way.(By comparison, in "The Rain People"(1969), Shirley Knight played a suburban housewife who finds herself pregnant and drives from New York to Nebraska.)[/color][/font]
[font=Century Gothic][color=#ff00ff][/color][/font]
[font=Century Gothic][color=blue]The central conceit of "Palindromes" is that Aviva is played by eight different people through the length of the story.(But do we ever see the real Aviva by the way?) I suppose that Todd Solondz' point could be one of reinvention while I was also thinking that it could be multiple personality disorder Aviva is suffering from.(I'm not an expert in psychology, by the way.) For a while, I thought Solondz had gone all the way through misanthropy to find religion on the other side but I think it's more a sense of humanity that he has found. Overall, the movie is not bad, even if I found it all a bit of an empty exercise. But I'm just glad to see Ellen Barkin in anything these days.[/color][/font]
Super Reviewer
February 7, 2012
Solondz' best move in my opinion. The use of radically different performers to play the lead is absolutely fascinating to see in action and adds to the universality of the message.
Super Reviewer
½ July 7, 2010
Its a kind of shotgun approach to satire and social commentary. Its all over the place, but I respect the audaciousness of Solondz for trying something so out there and mostly succeeding.
Super Reviewer
October 19, 2007
Extremely thought-provoking (both in subject matter and cinematic technique), challenging, shocking, disturbing, and awefully sad. Yet, I never felt overly drab while watching it.
Super Reviewer
½ February 15, 2013
I think it's a wonderful follow up to the cult classic- Welcome to the Dollhouse. It was once again, darkly humored, right from the very beginning of the film, you can already feel the macabre. Very typically Jewish but very fresh and original. Aviva is basically another Dawn, with a different storyline and different actors. I think it's quite unique in the way that 8 different actors played the same role. Also the title of the film really does get into you and you would see how clever it is. Fans would enjoy it but others may not.
Super Reviewer
July 23, 2009
With it's abortion issues, child molestation, child sex, and one creepy Jesus-bothering family, in the hands of Rob Zombie, this would be a sick horror movie.
In the hands of Solondz it becomes a comedy so black it almost needs it's own genre. Things like using wholly different actresses to play the lead throughout simply adds more thought and depth to what he's trying to say.
It takes an incredible writer to make the aforementioned themes amusing, which renders Solondz incredible.
Super Reviewer
½ March 11, 2010
A mostly uncomfortable experience that doesn't carry a compensating degree of insight or impact.
Super Reviewer
July 13, 2009
Compared to Solondz other work I found this film a bit disappointing but it was still brilliant.
Super Reviewer
March 31, 2009
I think it's safe to say there isn't a film anywhere near this one. Palindromes is a love-it-or-hate-it experience that invites the viewer to pick up as many clues as possible to unscramble a deeply affecting & disturbing mirror-puzzle of womanhood in America. Solondz' directorial eye gives precious little room for entertainment or convoluted shortcuts, but the result is magnetic on its own terms.

I can easily see how most viewers could be freaked out by the aberrant, purely nihilistic sequences scattered across this fragmented journey, and frankly, I don't blame them. His twisted humor might also come across as quite questionable, although it was undeniably effective for me.

I cannot say I have even tied up all the loose ends that remain after my second viewing. But what I do know is that I *felt* Palindromes-- and the odds of a film breaking through my shell of cinematic detachment after many years of movie-watching are now very small. For that, I congratulate Solondz and his outstanding achievement, and I recommend he never meets the therapist many might have recommended him.
Super Reviewer
½ October 17, 2008
This was definately an interesting was uncomfortable at times, and creepy (think the Sunshine Family!) but I think worth watching.
Super Reviewer
April 25, 2008
Parts of this are really interesting but it's a little too cracked out for me.
½ May 1, 2013
Palindromes is frustrating at times, but it is also a brutal, ethically challenging picture, that you leave feeling there are 'no right answers'.
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