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Year: 2004
Director: Todd Solondz
Stars: Ellen Barkin, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Debra Monk, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Richard Masur, Sharon Wilkins, Alexander Brickel, Rachel Corr
Genre: Drama, SexBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: Director Todd Solondz introduced the UK premiere of his latest film to a packed auditorium at the London Film Festival, and informed the audience they could either laugh or remain silent at certain points during the screening. Solondz's work usually contains dollops of humour amidst controversial subject matter and Palindromes is no exception, with the abortion issue inspiring strong for/against viewpoints.

A 12 year old girl (Aviva – not the only Palindrome of the evening) realises her ambition to become pregnant, only to be forced by her parents into having an abortion. Aviva then leaves home, determinded to become pregnant for a second time, and give birth with no parental interference.

Enter the devout christian family of Bo and Mama Sunshine; one of whom leads Aviva to the seedy trailer of a paedophile who's "paid his dues." Meanwhile, an evil-minded anti-abortionist is preparing to enter the fray. It's a dangerous, crazy world for a young girl to traverse, and her journey takes in love, death and the whole damn thing through the bodies and souls of six actresses (different ages, different colours of skin) and a young boy who merge to form the complete Aviva; amongst them, Jennifer Jason Leigh who is the recipient of a speech that sums up the entire point of the film, and also explains, in part, why Solondz chose to employ a troupe of performers for one role.

There's no doubt that Solondz will attract criticism from both sides of the abortion debate, and while his film may strive to be non-judgemental, the overall message is resolutely pro-life.

From a pro-choice mom (the excellent Ellen Barkin) who offers no choice at all, to murderous anti-abortion doctors, Palindromes skates over very thin ice and is never afraid to use humour as a means to make us think even more carefully about the issues involved. The subject of paedophilia is also brought to the fore, with Solondz pitching this character, in part, as a tender, caring man who will eventually figure in a disturbing scene involving homicide and murder: quite simply, this one will haunt you for weeks! There will also doubtless be bullets to dodge for a scene where Mama's family of autistic and disabled children perform a Christian dance number. Well, Jodorowsky directed a similar scene for his remarkable Santa Sangre, and his reasons are shared by Solondz and should be applauded.

With an excellent cast and wonderfully perceptive script, Palindromes is sharp, funny and often immeasurably moving. One of the most thought provoking films of 2004 and, quite possibly, the finest.
Reviewer: Steve Langton


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Todd Solondz  (1959 - )

Controversial American director of darkly comic social drama. His debut feature was the little-seen Fear, Anxiety & Depression, but it was 1995’s coming-of-age comedy Welcome to the Dollhouse that brought him international acclaim. Follow-up Happiness was a sometimes shocking, bleak-but-funny look at suburban life, and if 2001’s Storytelling was weak by comparison, Palindromes sees Solondz back to his edgy best.

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