Solondz has expressed in both the press notes for the film and in interviews that he doesn’t want this movie to be known as an issues movie. To this, I can agree with him. “Palindromes” should not be looked at as an issues movies, because despite touching on such topics as suicide, teen sex, teen pregnancy, teen abortion, runaways, anti-abortionist assassins and molestation, Solondz doesn’t actually spend any time examining the ideas he brings forth. Like Gus Van Sant with “Elephant,” Solondz seems to feel the filmmaker only needs to present a series of moments and force the audience to decide for themselves what it means. And like Van Sant with his movie, the storyteller’s lack of a position in his own tale is fatal for the movie and maddening for the audience.
A thirteen-year-old New Jersey girl, Aviva (get it, it’s a palindrome), wants to have a child, and does what she can to get pregnant. After one of the most awkward and painful teen sex scenes not to appear in a Larry Clark film, Aviva succeeds in getting knocked-up, and is quickly taken to get an abortion by her mother (Ellen Barkin). Angry at her parents for thwarting her plan, Aviva runs away from home, unmoving in her determination to get pregnant. Her adventures take her around the Eastern United States, where she gets involved with a family who adopts physically handicapped children (who happen to be a Hanson-like band) and an anti-abortionist assassin, only to end up back home at the end, still the same Aviva but not the same. The story might end at the beginning, but will you even carer
By now, those who might be interested in “Palindromes” are well aware of Solondz’s casting of eight actors of different age, sex and race to portray Aviva throughout her journey. The only reason I can fathom this decision was made exists in this paragraph. Every article, interview and review spends time talking about the casting, which generates publicity for the movie. If Solondz had made the exact same movie, but with a single actress playing Aviva, “Palindromes” would not be getting a tenth the coverage it is getting today. And I have fallen into that trap, spending time writing about a nonsensical aesthetic casting choice for a film which itself is preposterous.
Does Todd Solondz really want to shock cinemagoersr He should do what David Lynch did with “The Straight Story” and find a nice, quiet character drama written by someone else, and end of making the best film of his career. At his current rate, Solondz will have spun himself into obscurity by the end of the decade.Rating: F