Palindromes (2004)

Genres - Avant-garde / Experimental, Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Coming-of-Age, Psychological Drama, Satire  |   Release Date - Apr 13, 2005 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 100 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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While Todd Solondz has always had his critics, the confounding Palindromes has inspired them to new levels of vitriol. In addition to Solondz' usual obsessions (social ostracism, the more unpleasant aspects of human sexuality, pedophilia), Solondz here engages abortion (complete with a dumpster full of discarded fetuses). Palindromes has the feel of a queasy fairy tale. The filmmaker's decision to cast eight different actors as his lead character, Aviva, places Palindromes in the realm of "experimental filmmaking." And it's also experimental in the sense that Solondz seems more interested in generating a reaction than in asserting any control over what that reaction will be. It seems unlikely, for example, that he intends to hold up to ridicule the happy disabled kids of the "Sunshine Family." But there will be those, even among those who would claim to "get" Solondz' work, who find their bouncy musical paeans to Jesus hilarious. An alternative view is to take it all seriously, but the film is unremittingly ugly and unpleasant, and its performances are often garishly overdetermined. Thematically, Palindromes is blunt and pointedly static, offering little to ponder. We're clearly not intended to root for Aviva to fulfill her perverse goals, and the film refuses to allow her to change her predetermined course. She, in all her permutations, may as well be a bug under the director's microscope. Solondz deserves praise for his fierce independence and his unique personal vision as an artist, but that offers little solace to those of us sitting in the dark, amid nervous laughter, wondering what the hell the point is.