Through the Looking Glass, Darkly

In Todd Solondzs Palindromes, the reviled deliver

What is absolutely clear, notwithstanding a mischievously ambiguous ending and Solondz's oft-repeated claim that he leaves the drawing of conclusions to his audience, is the triumph of Solondz's bleak fatalism over his heroine's ingenuously American insistence on the possibility of happiness. Aviva's name, like that of several of the other characters, is another palindrome, spelled the same way backward and forward, and when she runs away from Mama Sunshine, it's all the way back home to her own mama, where she runs into a full-court homage to Capturing the Friedmans. Dawn's brother Mark Wiener (played by Welcome to the Dollhouse's Matthew Faber, a dead ringer for Solondz and, curiously, for the young Arnold Friedman) has been accused of child molestation, and the liberals around him all assume he's guilty. Except for Solondz, who gives him the benefit of the doubt and puts into Mark's mouth the credo that runs like a dark streak through all his movies. "No one ever changes," says Mark sadly. "There's no free will. We're all robots. Genes and randomness, that's all there is." Have a nice day, America.

PALINDROMES WAS WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY TODD SOLONDZ; PRODUCED BY DERRICK TSENG AND MIKE RYAN. NOW PLAYING AT EDWARDS UNIVERSITY, IRVINE.

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