Palindromes is the latest weirdness from Todd Solondz (Happiness). This is the story of a very screwed up little girl who wants so very much to be pregnant and have a baby to love. A palindrome is a word or phrase spelled the same back wards and forwards and in keeping with that theme, our heroine's name is Aviva.
There is a lot to work with here. Solondz wants to explore the idea of how selfish reproduction often is. The idea here is that the "mother" wants to be loved so much she is willing to bring a life into the world to get that love. There is also a great deal of selfishness in those that try to take advantage of Aviva including the men who want to sleep with her, her own confused parents and a family of bible thumpers who want to turn her to their ways.
There are two gimmicks in Palindromes . First, the film pays out like a Palindrome. How clever? This doesn’t even compare to the other trick of the film which is to have different actresses (all of different ages, races and sizes) play the doomed Aviva. All these actresses play Aviva with a beyond annoyingly soft-spoken whine that is tiresome 15 minutes into the film. Also, they all mope around the screen barely feigning emotion to the point where you aren't even sure they knew they were being filmed. The combination of gimmicks and annoying performances makes Palindromes a tortuous film to sit through.
But this isn't Solondz's biggest fumble. Similarly to his other work, in Palindromes Solondz tries to explore the everyday darkness of the human condition. However the most he ever seems to evoke is blandness. Life just isn't as boring as a Solondz film and the themes he explores are lost in this pallor.
I appreciate a very well made film and I love it when filmmakers push limits, play with form and explore new ways of communicating ideas to their audiences. However when there is little to be said behind all that construction, I find these films fall awfully flat. Palindromes says nothing. There is no pay off.
I should be leaving a film like Palindromes saying "Wow" but instead I am only left thinking "Poop."