Written and directed by Todd Solondz (Welcome to The Dollhouse)showcasing interconnecting stories involving very young girls and sex imposing predictable situations with predictable results that just drags each persons story's to pointless solutions that add up to nothing. Such themes as unwanted pragnancy, young girl wants to be a teen mom, underage girl from blue collar family wanting a baby and so forth.... And although viewers still can know what is happening by using the fast forward button while playing, out of all the stories theirs only one girls story that is authentic and that is the overweight African American girl Henrrieta (I have know idea who she's played by) since theirs a specific authenticity about using non professional actors in which some may just as well been actual victims.
2 out of 4
The first third of the film is powerful and almost beautiful. The way Solondz deals with abortion and a teenage girl's developmental desire to have a child, a desire that started when she was a small child and one that garnered her affection and tenderness (approval) from her mother. The gender issues are interesting, touching, and not something I've seen before in a film. But after, roughly, Act II, when Aviva, the main character, decides to run away, the film spirals in a gut wrenching and paralyzing play at complex issues portrayed in a superficial and incredibly uncomfortable way. Aviva becomes a sort of post-modern Alice who's fallen down a rabbit hole of lostness due to her (forced) abortion and possibly the fractured and disconnected relationship she has with her parents. It seems at first glance to be a sort of "coming of age" initiation into sex, rape, and murder, but, sadly, disappointingly, Aviva runs the dangerous risk of never coming of age at all. Perhaps this is true to some sort of contemporary existentialism -- where, in today's world of Amber Alerts, teenage kidnapping, and high statistics of sex-trafficking "in your own backyard", it can feel as if in the 21st Century, there is no more there there. This is certainly true for Aviva, who never changes, is never initiated into epiphany by her misadventures and tremendous grief and confusion, never develops a voice that can speak on her own behalf, other than to tell her mother to invite her former quasi foster mother, who's husband sent a man, the man who statutorily rapes Aviva at a truck stop motel, to kill the doctor who provided Aviva with her abortion - an abortion that left her without a uterus. And what kinds of storytelling is this?
"Palindromes" seems to fall into the category of post-modern "art films" that depict explicit exploitation of young females, in a way reminiscent of home-made kiddy porn, follow the girl along an endless trail of abuse and neglect, and never, at one point, does the character object, defend, intuit, voice her feelings, or act on her own behalf. It's a fabulous way of pretending to tell a story from a (abused) person's point of view without giving them a point of view at all. I find this kind of powerlessness in such film circumstances irresponsibly story telling. Solondz subjects the viewer, to what, I'm still not certain. And perhaps "giving" a point of view or "acting on her own behalf" are too much to ask for a child. And let us not forget by the end of the film, that Aviva, despite her cunning and sexual bravado, is still, very much, a child.
Palindromes is an excellent story, and originally made using various different girls set into the same character of Aviva(I think this to highlight the fact that this story could happen to anyone whether race, size or looks.). Other characters throughout film are excellent as well, with Ellen Barkin playing the highly emotional yet honestly real character of Aviva's mother, a performance by an actress I haven't seen in awhile. But throughtout the film, it cannot be undermined that the real performance here(although behind the camera) is Todd Solondz. Palindromes should stir heaps of emotions and show different angles to the often untalked about issues faced in this film. But once again it has some eiry bits which I cannot seem to figure out like why the film starts displaying with a jewish funeral(I understand who its for, but why it needs to be shown) then finishes with the theme song from the born again christian handicapped group. Whether it does or not, I don't know, but Palindromes ultimately looks like it's making fun at alot of people, yet seems to balance it out highlighting their own hypocrisy and stupidity.
I liked this more than 'Happiness', even though it's hard to actually admit you like it, even for someone who considers themselves dark and realistic as me. Palindormes is extremely well made and should definitely leave a few little marks tattooed in your thoughts. Whether this is Solondz's plan, who know? Either way although I appreciate his efforts to push the boundaries, I'm suspicious of Todd Solondz and where he stands ethically and morally in stories such as this and Happiness.