Published May 01, 2005With each film, Todd Solondz further solidifies his role as a societal scab picker. Not a single hot topic goes untouched, and here he nurses a few favourites: rape, paedophilia, Christian fundamentalism and the disabled. Mostly, Palindromes is an exercise in moral relativism, poking a stick at both sides of the abortion debate and embracing the fact that it's irreconcilable.
As a kinda/sorta sequel to Welcome To the Dollhouse, the film begins with the closed casket funeral of Dollhouse's "Weiner Dog," Dawn Wiener, who happens to be the cousin of Palindromes' 13-year-old protagonist Aviva (get it? Her name is a palindrome!). Aviva's only aspiration in life is to "have lots and lots of babies." When she accomplishes the getting knocked-up part of the equation, her "pro-choice" mother (Ellen Barkin) practically shoves her into an abortion clinic, reminding her of all the horrible defects a baby can have when being born of such a young mother and explaining the process as an invigorating little romp.
In an effort to get pregnant again without her parents' interference, Aviva runs away. She is taken in by "the Sunshines," who are fluffy caricatures of the religious Right, a family composed of what seem to be the defective children her mother warned her about. Good ol' mama Sunshine keeps watch over all the unwanted disabled children, providing them with a loving, Christian home and a sense of purpose (all while hiring out a paedophilic assassin to kill off abortion doctors). Okay, so this film isn't exactly subtle.
A number of different actors - from a 13-year-old Jewish girl to a 300-pound black woman to a young boy -portray Aviva, and at each change there's no real shift in perception; all are equally doomed. In the end, it's a round-trip road movie that ends where it begins, just like its title implies. Through all his work, Solondz has maintained a perverse sensibility, a knack for making even the most messed up characters sympathetic, compelling and even darkly funny. Palindromes is no different. (Th!nk)