Palindromes: Backwards and ForwardsThe story of Palindromes takes place in the suburbia of America, mostly in New Jersey (a common locale for all Todd Solondz films). There are dispirited youth, caring parents, pro-lifers, religious fanatics and mudane characters that are odd in their "ordinary-ness".
Palindromes starts with a funeral for Dawn Weiner (protagonist for Welcome to the Dollhouse). Dawn has apparently committed suicide and her young cousin Aviva (a palindrome name) wants assurances from her mother (Ellen Barkin) that she won't end up with the same fate as Dawn. In a scene, heavy with foreshadowing, Aviva tells her mother she wants "lots and lots of babies..."
A few years later Aviva, now 13 years old, goes with her parents to visit family friends at a lake home. There she has a sexual misadventure with Judah, the family's son. By the time she gets back to the city, she is pregnant and insistent on keeping the child. She agrees to have an abortion, but unbeknowst to her, there was a tear in the uterus and the doctor gave her a hysterectomy. This is the beginning of the adventures of Aviva played by eight actors (two women, five girls and one boy).
Solondz does a great job of showing the banality of suburban living and the discontent of tweens and teens that inhabit this landscape. With Palindromes his primary purpose is to challenge the concept of the audience's investment in a character, versus the investment in the actor playing the character. It's an interesting concept, but I'm not sure Solondz succeeds.
Could the audience stay invested in the trials and tribulations of an Aviva that (physically) changed from scene to scene in the same film? It was difficult. The characters played Aviva differently, markedly differently, but perhaps unintentionally so. (It may have been more interesting if the actors invested in practicing overtly similiar mannerisms.) Also the secondary characters Joe/Earl/Bob (played by Stephen Adly Guirgis who is sexually involved with Aviva) and Aviva's mom (Ellen Barkin) seemd to treat the various Avivas differently.
Mark Weiner, played once again by Matthew Faber from Welcome to the Dollhouse, was one of the most sympathetic and well-constructed characters. The character acts as a prophet who has no control of what is to be, he is the modern Cassandra. He lets Aviva understand the nature of her palindrome and the "Dawn Weiner-esque" cycle she is stuck in. He is also given the task of verbalizing why Aviva has unwittingly chosen the path she has trodden. Weiner functions as a reveal to the audience, but there is uncertainty whether Aviva understands (or believes or will take heed of) his words.
In the end the film is an interesting experiment at a conversation with the audience about the nature of character and our involvement with the actors on screen. Extremely well-conceived, the film feels poorly executed.
Palindromes plays on April 23 at the AMC Kabuki 8 Theatres and April 25 at the Pacific Film Archive as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival. It opens in New York April 13, 2005 and Los Angeles on April 15, 2005.Comments: Post a Comment