The Death of Dawn Weiner:
A Review of Todd Solondz' Palindromes

by Tony Phillips

In 1983, the UK’s Fun Boy Three released a two minute, forty-seven second gem called “We’re Having All The Fun.” Which two fascist world superpowers was this glum dirge about? If you guessed Electra Woman and Dina Girl, guess again. I mention this song because it would have fit perfectly atop New Jersey auteur Todd Solondz’ latest opus of the unsympathetic if only his own outrageous Jack in the Box chimes behind pastel baby blocks spelling out principle’s names breaking the film into episodes weren’t already so pitch perfect. The writer/director who butt-fucked Dawson up the creek and didn’t even let us see, kills his single greatest creation, the Weiner dog, before the credits even roll. Solondz is nothing if not a spoiler: a fun spoiler. And one can look all the way back to the Reagan/Thatcher era, but they’re right here in front of abortion clinics, the Michael Jackson trial, even our own annual gay pride parades. You know who’s having all the fun these days? Republican, Fox News watching, right-wing, motherfuckers. And if we really want to take back this country, we’d start by making Solondz’ new film Palindromes the first state-sanctioned, mandatory After-School Special.

The titular Aviva is twelve — some say thirteen, but pre-teen to be sure — and, get this mom, ‘viva’s got baby fever. She achieves an hysterical pregnancy via house call to geek prince Judah and pro-choice mom Joyce, a luminous Ellen Barkin, bullies her into abortion by encouraging her to think of the baby as a tumor. Vera Drake, she ain’t. But Aviva braves picket lines and ditches her kid only to embark on a bent Wizard of Oz in which she is lion, witch and half-shirted wardrobe rolled into one. Sure, having eight different actors — including Jennifer Jason Leigh in the finest, briefest performance of her career — play Aviva is a gimmick. Bunuel did it years ago and Bourne’s doing it now at the Ahmanson, but by the time Solondz is done, Aviva visits Mama Sunshine (hysterically portrayed by perennially sun-dressed Debora Monk; even her dog is fucked up) and her band of disabled Christian soldiers (look for cutie Tyler Maynard reprising his role evening-length off-Broadway in the Christian boy band Altar Boyz musical) and seeks further impregnation from a trailer-dwelling trucker, another brilliant filmic turn by New York playwright Stephen Aldy Guirgis. In the end, Aviva discovers people, like palindromes, get you coming and going. In the end.