Palindromes is a fable of innocence: 13-year old Aviva Victor wants to be a mom. She does all that she can to make this happen, and comes very close to succeeding, but in the end, her plan is thwarted by her sensible pare... more »nts (Ellen Barkin and Richard Masur). So she runs away, still determined to get pregnant one way or another, but instead finds herself lost in another world, a less sensible one, perhaps, but one pregnant itself with all sorts of strange possibility. Like so many trips, this one is round-trip, and it's hard to say in the end if she can ever be quite the same again, or she can ever be anything but the same again. Palindromes features an all-star supporting cast including Debra Monk, Stephen Adly-Guirgis, Jennifer Jason Leigh and seven different and equally brilliant, risk-taking actors of different ages, races and sizes to play the young heroine. Acclaimed writer/director Todd Solondz (Welcome to the Dollhouse, Happiness, Storytelling) once again presents a film of moral complexity, and while this may be his most political and philosophical film yet, it is, in many ways, his most tender.« less
"You are the cutest little bundle of love in the whole world
M. J Leonard | Silver Lake, Los Angeles, CA United States | 10/01/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There's a lot going on in Palindromes, a morality complex film, that like a palindrome looks at the two sides of the incendiary and complex abortion debate. It's a dark movie, not because of what happens in it - child molestation, a botched abortion, teenage pregnancy and murder - but because director Todd Solondz seems to be intent on implicating everyone.
The film is also notable for the fact that eight different actors play Aviva in separate chapters: the plump black girl at the beginning of the movie is replaced by a chubby brunet, then by a slim redhead, another brunet, a young boy, an obese African American woman and, finally, by Jennifer Jason Leigh
The movie begins with Aviva, (Victor Emani Sledge), saying that all she wants is to have as many babies as possible so she'll always have someone to love. This Aviva is a chubby black girl whose tongue flops out of her mouth when she speaks. Her neurotic but liberally minded mother Joyce (Ellen Barkin) comforts her but doesn't really take her that seriously until she gets to her teenage years and sets out to make pregnancy happen.
Aviva's first opportunity presents itself in the form of Judah (Robert Agri), who later changes his name to Otto (John Gemberling), the porn-obsessed son of her parents' friends. Judah obliges her request, and things get worse from there. When her mom discovers that she is pregnant, she's taken straight to the abortion clinic. But Aviva Escapes the clutches of her parents and hitches a ride out of town with pedophilic trucker Joe (Stephen Adly Guirgis), eventually spending the night with him in a roadside motel.
Aviva eventually ends up in the care of Mama Sunshine (Debra Monk), a Christian woman whose husband Bo (Walter Bobbie) and family physician, Dr. Dan (Richard Riehle) plan assassinations of abortionists in their basement. But Aviva is happy in the care of Mama Sunshine, who as also has taken in a group of handicapped, unwanted children, and turned them into a Christian singing group.
Just like Aviva's name, the Victors and Sunshines are forward and backward versions of the same thing - they are Palindromes. What is so effective about this movie is that Solondz doesn't pass judgment on any of his characters, even though you get the sense that he's constantly supporting the underdog.
As depressing as it is hard to watch, Palindromes is also consistently, horrifyingly funny and sharp-witted, and the darker, mordent and more well-observed its humor, the more it seems to contradict the director's unsentimental, even grudging empathy for his fellow humans.
The movie is rife with symbolism and circular meaning: Joyce tells Aviva that she may have a deformed child who is blind and without arms, but later in the film Mama Sunshine's children are all either physically or mentally disabled. There's also Joyce's line about "getting rid of Henry," her aborted second child, that makes her momentarily sound like the hit man who will kill her abortionist. Peter Paul (the amazing Alexander Brickel) offers Mama Sunshine's "Jesus' tears," cookies that are shaped like sperm. The Sunshine kids also parallel the unborn fetuses their Mama retrieves from a local dump and buries.
As usual, Solondz proves that he's one of America's most distinctive directors, and he uses this unique device to carry forth a story that touches on many emotional subjects. Some chapters work better than others with the "Mama Sunshine" Aviva, played by the obviously adult, black, and quite large Sharon Wilkins, coming across as the most complex and interesting of the film's many parts.
If Aviva is fundamentally incorruptible, it's not because she's innocent but because, like her name, she's essentially the same any way you look at her. Wherever she goes, however she looks, there she is, doomed or destined to trace the same patterns. At the end of the film, just as at the beginning, she still wants to have lots and lots of babies, having learnt absolutely nothing from her experiences. Mike Leonard September 05. "
I thought it was great....
Linda Padilla | Fords, New Jersey United States | 06/03/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I have to disagree with some of the reviews. First of all, this isn't Solondz best work, but the effort, the storyline, the theme-- AMAZING.
I'm not one whose very "thorough" (you can read other reviews for that.) but if you are craving a movie that makes you think about life, love and/or even about change, SEE THIS MOVIE. Yes, at times there is a bit of comedy (some jokes fall pretty flat), but if you look a little deeper, you can definitely see what Solondz was trying to accomplish.
The ending, on the otherhand, was pretty much disturbing.
It definitely made me think."
As Provoking as it is Disturbing
Kasey Driscoll | 01/30/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Todd Solondz (Happiness, Storytelling) is one of the most unique filmmakers of the last few decades and for my money, one of the most creative as well. He places American suburbia in the ugliest frame possible but manages to find some very dark humor within all the twisted sadness he portrays. He takes people we normally don't want to know and examines them intimately enough that we must chose wether we like them or hate them more than we could ever imagine. His latest film was 2004's Palindromes, and it is no exception to his style. Solondz does more of the same but it almost seems that with Palindromes he wanted to explore his themes and style with even more depth. Some viewers may think this means Palindromes is likely to be more disturbing, but really it is his style and his unrestrained creative madness that is more on display than the kind of content within his films that often justify his troubling reputation. Although, like Happiness, Solondz explores child molestation and sexual deviance further than anyone, and many will not want to join him on this ride.
Aviva (played by 8 different actors, including Jennifer Jason Leigh) is a thirteen year old girl that is profoundly sad and who has only one motivation in her life. She wishes to have a child so she may be loved by someone for the rest of her life. She decides that in order to have a child she will have sex with an unsavory family friend named Judah. Aviva's mother (Ellen Barkin) is devastated to find that Aviva is pregnant and orders her to get an abortion. The doctor informs Aviva's parents that she is no longer capable of having children after the procedure, but her parents never actually inform Aviva of this complication. She soon runs away from home to continue her quest to have a child. She has sex with a pedofile truck driver who then abandons her. Aviva's travels then bring her to a Christian fundamentalist group who cares for misfits kids without a home. The head of this group is also involved in organizing the assassinations of doctors at abortion clinics, and one of his associates is the same pedofile truck driver who Aviva had relations with earlier in the film. She is of course drawn to him again. The truck driver, whose name is eventually revealed to be Bob, despite his constant need to use aliases and try to change what he is and what he is perceived as, is assigned to kill the doctor who completed Aviva's procedure. Aviva goes with him and Bob accidently murders the doctor's young daughter in addition to killing the doctor. He feels terrible for this and expresses how stupid it was for him to think that actions like that could change what he is. By the film's end Aviva reunites with Judah, who now calls him self Otto. She has sex with him again, completely oblivious to the fact that she cannot have a child.
There are a few different reasons I think Solondz decided to use seven actresses and one young actor to portray Aviva. For one, the obvious stand against convention is a Solondz trademark. The diversity of the group that plays Aviva is also wide and perhaps more provoking for that alone. So each actor was probably cast without regard for visuals and more for their performance in their particular scenes. The primary reason I think Solondz did this though was to show that no matter what you look like on the outside you can't change what you are. Aviva will always be Aviva no matter what she looks like on the surface. Even if you spell her name backwards she will always be Aviva and Aviva will always want a child to call her mom."
Enjoyable indy movie
Tom H | Sydney, Australia | 09/21/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I ask nothing more of a film than to be able to connect with it, which I did with this film. The other film I have seen from this director is Happiness - I must say I like his style, the way he presents extremely dark subject matter with a sugary-sweet aesthetic.Another pleasing element to this film is the way the characters seem to fall into their predicaments and are unable to resolve their problems, too often we see characters in films tying up all the loose ends in their lives, the director acknowledges the randomness of life in this film. "
A Challenging Film
Cathy | Boston, MA | 08/03/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This movie was difficult to watch. It employs several actresses for the main character, not all of whom are at the same skill level, and the narrative jogs along at an uneven rate. In addition, the subject matter is very dark, even when presented in a seemingly lighthearted fashion. However, this film is a wonderful discussion starter. The issues of the reproductive rights movement are covered in a thoughtful way. This movie is a good way to get a group of people talking about the value conflicts within the pro-choice community. I wouldn't watch this film solely for entertainment, even in an "artsy" mood, but it's an interesting one to screen to start a discussion."