Sunday, November 27, 2005

Palindromes (2004)

A Film Review

Copyright Dragan Antulov 2005

Too many times phrase "art film" is mistaken for "controversial film". Because of that many otherwise talented filmmakers think that they maintain their reputation of great artists merely by dealing with controversial subjects. One of the artists to fall into such trap is Todd Solondz who provided particularly tragic example with his 2004 drama PALINDROMES.

Protagonist of the film is Aviva Victor, 12-year old only daughter of middle class couple who wants to increase her family by getting pregnant herself. A visit to her teenage relative will provide her with a baby. Her parents Joyce (played by Ellen Barkin) and Steve (played by Richard Masur) aren't that enthusiastic and they force her to have abortion during which she will accidentally lose ability to have any more children. Aviva is unaware of that and she runs from home determined to try again. First she has sex with paedophilic truck driver Joe (played by Stephen Adly Guirgis), then finds shelter in the abandoned children's shelter run by Sunshines, Christian fundamentalist couple engaged in militant anti-abortionist actions.

Solondz's script had potential of becoming a very interesting and intelligent film. Some of the issues - abortion, adolescent pregnancy, paedophilia - have been covered before, but Solondz could have easily portrayed them in refreshing and thoughtful way. For example, the issue of abortion is portrayed by showing the hypocrisy among both "pro life" and "pro choice" camps - the former take life in the name of their noble ideas and the latter take away someone else's choice simply in order to maintain their middle-class idyll.

Unfortunately, all those potentials were wasted and PALINDROMES looks like a potentially decent film buried under the thick layers of misanthropy and artistic pretensions. The most notable example of the latter is the decision to cast 12 different actors - of different race, age group and gender - in the role of Aviva. Because of that the audience can't identify with the protagonist and the varying quality of acting is very annoying. The other characters, just like Aviva, are also either too bizarre or not likeable enough for the audience to have any emotional investment in them. There are some bits and pieces in the film that actually work - roles by Ellen Barkin and Jennifer Jason Leigh briefly showing ability to play character three times younger than herself - but they can't alter the disappointing general impression of the PALINDROMES. Even the audience accustomed to "bizarre" films will have problems connecting with this one, mostly due to PALINDROMES often looking bizarre for the sake of being bizarre.

RATING: 3/10 (+)


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