Palindromes

The films of Todd Solondz (Welcome to the Dollhouse, Happiness, Storytelling) read the same forward or backward — they rub the grotesque in our faces, the better to see ourselves, my dears. His latest shocker, the tling and powerful Palindromes, casts eight actors to play Aviva, the pregnant thirteen-year-old girl who runs away from home after her mother (a superb Ellen Barkin) talks her into an abortion. The actors range from Emani Sledge, 6, and Jennifer Jason Leigh, 43, to a preteen boy (Will Denton) and an overweight black woman (Sharon Wilkins). It's a gimmick that works when a truck driver (Stephen Adly-Guirgus) picks up Aviva, screws her, then brings her to Mama Sunshine (Debra Monk), a good Christian who houses disabled kids and preaches death to the wicked, notably abortionists. Solondz likes to put the screws to moral hypocrisy. As always, he goes too far. As always, you don't want to look away.

From The Archives Issue 104: March 16, 1972