Aviva is thirteen, awkward and sensitive. Her mother Joyce is warm and loving, as is her father, Steve, a regular guy who does have a fierce temper from time to time. The film revolves around her family, friends and neighbors.
A fable of innocence: thirteen-year-old Aviva Victor wants to be a 'mom'. She does all she can to make this happen, and comes very close to succeeding, but in the end her plan is thwarted by her sensible parents. So she runs away, still determined to get pregnant one way or another, but instead finds herself lost in another world, a less sensible one, perhaps, but one pregnant itself with all sorts of strange possibility. She takes a road trip from the suburbs of New Jersey, through Ohio to the plains of Kansas and back. Like so many trips, this one is round-trip, and it's hard to say in the end if she can ever be quite the same again, or if she can ever be anything but the same again.Written by
Sujit R. Varma
A Fascinating Visual Experiment on Hot Button Issues
"Palindromes" is a fascinating visual thought experiment.
Very parallel to Alexander Payne's "Citizen Ruth" in covering some of the same territory about abortion, writer/director Todd Solontz mostly eschews that film's satire and easy jabs for a protean look at an issue that has a more complicated emotional landscape than advocates on either side usually concede.
He does this by literally taking us inside the mind of a young malleable adolescent who intentionally gets pregnant and is surprised at the reactions of those around her. Sometimes we see her as she sees herself, as if we are reading her diary, with her body-hating hopes for a change in hair, skin, age or family, and sometimes we see her as others see her.
Every one wants to control "Aviva" and their hypocritical selfishness is laid bare, regardless of their various good intentions. Her mother sees her still as a baby (a welcome back to the screen for Ellen Barkin who manages to add maternal warmth to hostile dialog) to the discomfiting sexualization (Britney-ization?) of just barely teens that is just barely a step above pedophilia, to how she is seen by pro-life advocates (whose Sunshine Band for "special children" seems almost as exploitative as JonBenet Ramsey's performances) and on in a picaresque dream scape that crosses a nightmare that is a bit extreme, especially for fans of "Welcome to the Dollhouse."
Solontz pulls this off by having every image of "Aviva" (according to the director's production notes) "portrayed by two women, four girls (13-14 years old), one 12-year-old boy, and one 6-year old girl" of widely variant size, shape, color and just about every other possible outward characteristic, even though one haranguer points out that no one can ever really change.
Solontz in a hand-out at the theater defined his use of the title as meaning "a condition of stasis and/or immutability; that part of one's personality or character that resists change, stays the same," but I'm not sure that successfully comes through in this provocative film, especially with some of the acerbic dialog and disturbing actions.
Nathan Larson's music is appropriately eerie, with spooky vocalizations by Nina Persson.
Releasing the film without a rating will probably keep it from being seen by young teens which is too bad as it is a frank and fresh look at the pressures on girls from friends, family and society.
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