Todd Solondz plays with words in latest film
Todd Solondz, the creepy virtuoso of indie film, returns once again to unveil his new set of tragic characters with his latest, "Palindromes." In this chapter of Solondz's films, we meet Aviva, a 12-year-old girl who gets pregnant, much to the horror of her parents. They insist on abortion, but Aviva wants to keep her baby. "Didn't we give you everything? What about the N*Sync tickets?" Aviva's mother asks. Solondz certainly has a way with dialogue.
With "Palindromes," Solondz continues to focus on the gray areas of humanity. Solondz is able to make audiences sympathize with entirely unsympathetic characters. The film is ironically titled, as a palindrome refers to a word or phrase being the same way no matter how you look at it, while Solondz examines his characters from many different perspectives. Aviva, whose name is a palindrome in itself (you'll also meet Bob, Otto ... well, you get the idea), is played by several different actors, differing by age, race and even gender. While this choice is a little jarring at first, it ends up bringing added depth to the scenes.
Everything in "Palindromes" screams of Solondz. From the entirely awkward and often uncomfortable dialogue (most of it revolving around abortion) to the rampant themes of pedophilia that soaked his 1998 film "Happiness," Solondz isn't so much trying to make a political statement, but instead putting fully flawed characters under his microscope. He reminds everyone of the fact that "Hey, these are people, too."
The references back to his breakout film "Welcome to the Dollhouse" add another layer to the film for big time Solondz fans, but don't take anything away from "Palindromes" if you're not in the know.
For those completely tuned in to Solondz's deliciously twisted sense of humor, "Palindromes" has its comedic moments. Aviva shacks up with Mama Sunshine and the Sunshine Singers. Think a Partridge Family vibe, but the twist is the members of this band all suffer birth defects and deformities, and Solondz has them dancing boy band style. Oh, and they sing about Jesus, with lyrics like "This is the way that Jesus made us / Let's celebrate for all to see."
While "Palindromes" doesn't match the brilliant execution of "Happiness," like all of Solondz films, "Palindromes" will succeed in being "messed up." Despite his weirdness, Solondz has an unmatched talent for cutting into the underbelly of suburbia.