on April 13, 2005 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
It's not surprising that in the first few minutes of his new film, writer/director Todd Solondz kills off the "heroine" of his acclaimed "Welcome to the Dollhouse," making fun of her death in the process. It's just the latest salvo in his contemptible attitude towards his characters and, by extension, the filmgoer. "Palindromes" is just more of the same.

Twelve-year-old Aviva (whose name is a palindrome--the same backwards and forwards--and who is played by eight different actors, one of whom is a boy) wants desperately to get pregnant. Since her parents (wisely) oppose this wish, she runs way from home, encountering all sorts of odd denizens of Middle America in her travels.

From its grotesque portrait of a household of born-again Christians ("Freaks" without the compassion) to its casting of an obese girl as one of the Avivas, "Palindromes" reeks of Solondz's trademark nastiness, reveling in a childish ability to shock the viewer. It all adds up to a painfully dull, slipshod and pointless portrait of America. Starring Ellen Barkin, Stephen Adly Guirgis and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Directed and written by Todd Solondz. Produced by Derrick Tseng and Mike Ryan. A Wellspring release. Drama. Unrated. Running time: 100 min

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