Josh Bell


(2.5 stars)

Stars: Sharon Wilkins, Ellen Barkin, Debra Monk

Director: Todd Solondz

Details: Opens Friday

Todd Solondz seems to pride himself on being a filmmaker who divides audiences, so it may disappoint him to learn that I neither loved nor hated his new cinematic tirade, Palindromes. Like fellow misanthropic filmmakers Neil LaBute and Lars von Trier, Solondz makes bleak, uncompromising films that are less about a point of view than about disapproval of essentially everything and everyone. Many take issue with his anti-humanity philosophy, but as misanthropes go, Solondz is often bitingly effective.

Palindromes is only middling, though. The main problem is Solondz's over-determined storytelling conceit, which has 13-year-old protagonist Aviva played by a succession of seven actors of various ages, races, body types and even genders. It's supposed to demonstrate the theme of people's inability to change, but mainly it demonstrates the Avivas' inability to act. Aviva, desperate to have a baby, runs away from home after a forced abortion, and learns along the way that everything and everyone sucks.

Which we've already learned if we've watched any of Solondz's other movies. He opens with the funeral of Dawn Weiner, the heroine of his 1995 breakthrough, Welcome to the Dollhouse, symbolically killing off any hope for redemption for his awkward, damaged characters. Sounds like a good time, doesn't it?

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