Most are now accustomed to Todd Solondz’s disturbing features, where the audience is time and time again asked to sit through some of cinema’s most harrowing moments, and more importantly invited to sympathise with the perpetrators who break some of society’s darkest taboos. Back in 1996 the uncompromising Welcome to the Dollhouse shocked audiences no end… and then the fantastically perverse Happiness took us to places that film has never gone (and possibly will never go again). By the time Storytelling came around, I think it’s safe to say audiences were onto him. That film did have its moments… but on the whole seemed a little like he was squeezing out the last few drops of creativity. So now we have Palindromes, which, for me, was even less interesting.
It’s still a contentious film: he challenges us to alternately loath and care about the characters. Palindromes continues Solondz’s apparent crusade to point out society’s hypocrisies, but overall it’s a bit too… dull.
Having seven different people portray the central character of Aviva was a nice idea, but it didn’t really add that much to the film. Sure, it showcased a good bunch of actors, but the technique only really served to isolate the viewer. Especially when you have Jennifer Jason Leigh playing a young teenage girl. There was no way we could get as involved with Aviva as we did with Dawn Wiener from Welcome to the Dollhouse, who it turns out is Aviva’s cousin.
Solondz has covered similar ground before, and that would be ok if the story itself was entertaining. But Palindromes seems to have very little structure, and simply ambles along without much purpose. There is a speech at the end that tries to bring it all together although the central statement was ambiguous at best.
There are still some moments of Solondz’s genius here, as all of the subsidiary characters commit heinous acts yet either hate themselves for it or do it because they are convinced it’s the right thing to do. I’m sure Palindromes would have the potential to cause a heap of controversy if audiences weren’t familiar with his work – portraying paedophiles as anything other than pure evil (for instance as seriously unwell individuals, as is suggested in Palindromes) is always bound to make a few people angry.
I’m willing to be patient, however. Hopefully there’s another great film inside Solondz’s head, just waiting to be unleashed upon the unsuspecting public.Rating: