Wednesday, September 15, 2004


A character in this film who has just done a horrible thing cries out in fear anger and misery to God: "How many times can I be born again?!" If you find this line darkly amusing then Palindromes is perhaps the movie for you. Director Todd Solondz has a way of filtering the way characters behave through some sort of comic id. They say what people may think in the tiniest corner of their brian but is usually unconventional to let out any further than that. Case in point: When Ellen Barkin's character advises her daughter Aviva to get an abortion she tells her to think of how her life will be ruined if the child turns out deformed. This is perhaps an awful thing to say, but there may be a nugget of truth to the situation when that daughter is 13 years old. Later we see happiness and joy of children with various disabilities at a christian boarding home run by an ernest Mama Sunshine. These children are happy and productive. Later still, we see Mama Sunshine's husband planning the murder of an abortion doctor.
The central message of Palindromes is in the title, people cannot change with any sense of finality, but merely come back to the point at which they started. If they are a happy person by nature, they will probably end up happy, if they are depressed they may find temporary points of happiness, but will come full circle back at some point, because that is who they are. This is underscored by the decision to have several actors play aviva, from young teenagers to a heavy black woman in her twenties to Jennifer Jason Leigh. Trust me, it works and is nearly transparent to the story. Abortion, Pedophilia, Christian Pop Music and motherhood are all touched on during Aviva's Huckleberry-Finn-like journey. Somehow it is funny too. Solondz does not break much new ground from his previous films like Welcome to the Dollhouse and Happiness, however he has made a finely crafted film.


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