This film follows Aviva, a 13-year-old girl who desperately wants to get pregnant. Oddly, it's mentioned that she is the cousin of Dawn Weiner, the protagonist of Solondz's first film Welcome to the Dollhouse, who we are told has just committed suicide. Aviva, who is played by eight different actresses (of varying races, ages, and genders) in the film's various chapters, does manage to get pregnant, but is pressured by her mother (Ellen Barkin) into having an abortion. Eventually she runs away and ends up living with a family run by hyper-Christian pro-life parents, who have adopted a number of deformed and unwanted children (many of whom are played by children with real deformities or otherwise crippling conditions). Other stuff happens, but I don't want to give too much away.
The device of having the main character switch to a different actress every 10 or 20 minutes is definitely startling at first, but by the end of the film I was strangely used to it. The casting choice that stands out the most is Sharon Wilkins, an obese black woman who appears to be in her 30s. Most of the incarnations of Aviva are white teenage girls, except for Wilkins and Jennifer Jason Leigh, who was around 40 when she made the movie. Still, Wilkins's performance is so subdued and childlike that you quickly accept her as a 13-year-old girl, somehow. It really is a strange effect - what should seem like the ultimate Brechtian distancing device becomes, in this film, oddly natural-seeming. You never quite forget about the different-actresses issue, but it's never at the forefront of your mind, either; and you do get a sense of a consistent character across all the performances.
Aside from the casting stunt, the film has all of Solondz's trademarks - grim, deadpan humor, bleak irony, pedophilia, and a refusal to easily judge his characters. On the one hand, this seems like it should come off as the ultimate nihilism - if there's no firm moral ground for the viewer to stand on amidst all this horrible stuff, what are we to hold on to? On the other hand, Solondz at his best - here and especially in Happiness - can genuinely make you empathize with people who do horrible things. So you do still feel things, but there is virtually no one you can easily identify as a good person in these films, at least among the adults. I don't know. I'm not really sure what to say about Solondz's ethics or lack thereof overall. Purely as a viewing experience, however, this film is certainly more interesting and entertaining than Storytelling, and strange enough to recommend to adventurous viewers.
underlines obvious aspects to justify its unpleasant tone. Maybe it is time he shifts gears and brings something new to the silver screen
And that's just fine.
He'll take the bow off your lovely box of bullshit and dig down right to the bottom.
If there was a bottom.
There isn't a bottom. If you were looking for truth, that's it.
I've long held that most movie critics are moral grandstanders, picking and choosing, elevating and diminishing for their own curatorial interests, the bad reviews of this film supports that.
This is an honest, thoughtful, considerate and provocative piece of art that should leave you feeling wonderfully uncomfortable. Yes, you heard me, discomfort can be wonderful.
Life is uncomfortable. Get comfortable with it.