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Palindromes

Brutality is everywhere

If someone vacuumed all goodness from this world, what remains would be a reasonable approximation of the predatory world that Todd Solondz creates in his films. Far from being a virtue, Solondz treats the inability to take advantage of others as a tragic flaw that automatically conscripts one into a life as a victim of others' cruelty. Such is the case for Aviva, a hopelessly insecure girl born into a world that chooses not to love those equipped with neither beauty nor guile.

Palindromes follows Aviva from early childhood to adolescence in a series of vignettes, each one detailing another failure in her quest for acceptance. However, in each of the segments a different actress -- whose appearance ranges from a bony redhead teenager to an obese black lady -- assumes the lead. It's an original manner to illustrate that Aviva's plight is shared by countless other individuals, but the execution is only moderately successful. Initially, the rotating actresses who play the lead character cause a degree of confusion, and by the end, the point has been belabored too long to have a lasting effect.

A palindrome -- like Aviva -- is a word that is the same whether spelled forward or backward. In this case, it extends beyond her name to her actual character. While people continually rearrange things in their life in order to become the person they envision themselves as, they can never escape who they are or the fate assigned to them.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars