I still found myself shivering of the affects of this film. I found the characters to be deeply emotional, at times disturbing yet oddly enough neither attractive nor repulsive. If you were offended by "The Woodsman"...then seeing this film would not be advised. "The Woodsman" largely hinted at things...and seldom "went there." This film not only "goes there," but on a certain level normalizes it. I sincerely doubt any abuse survivor with unresolved issues could see this film without becoming upset. Likewise, I doubt that any person with a physical challenge/disability could see this film without being irritated...both of these things are sad, in my eyes, because what Solondz does really well is not judge the process...he presents his characters in an every day way because they are part of everyday life.
All of these characters are deeply human...wounded souls...some do wonderful things for selfish reasons, some do horrible things for noble reasons...others seem to merely survive. There are a number of standout performances, and there are other performances where you look at the screen and are trying to figure out "Is that on purpose?" For example, the opening "Aviva" is a young African-American actress of probably 9 or 10...quite honestly, she's a rather horrid actress who appears to be reading lines off the cue card...while she looks adorable...well, her delivery was simply awkward...and yet, as time went on, I found this characterization balancing wonderfully with the others...perhaps the most powerful portrayal is offered by the "Mama Sunshine" Aviva...portrayed by Sharon Wilkins, a large African-American female...older, and clearly not a child...clearly not innocent...yet the whole scene is played off as though she is AND Wilkins is mesmerizing. Likewise, the wondrous Jennifer Jason Leigh plays Aviva after she has returned home and adds a weathered, yet tender touch to the character that is just hypnotic. Additionally, her insistence to invite a family member who is alleged to be a pedophile leads to one of the most quietly powerful conversations I've seen on film this year ending with these classic lines:
Mark Wiener: By the way, I'm not a pedophile.
Aviva: I know. Pedophiles LOVE children.
"Palindromes" is a challenging film...it is, at times, a tad boring and has definite pockets where the acting is not up to par. Yet, in reality, I can't help but feel this was an intentional move by Solondz. It's as if he wants us to realize...that we can change our looks, our voices, our boobs, our bodies, our talents, our gifts, our color...but who we are doesn't change. Selfish people will always be selfish...happy people will always find a way to be happy. Challenging, thought provoking and deeply human...Todd Solondz, backward and forward, is simply an outstanding, courageous storyteller and a unique, insightful and gifted director.