Palindromes (2004)

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Released 21-Jun-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Show Me Love, Crush, 2046, Live Flesh, Night On Earth
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 96:00 (Case: 100)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Todd Solondz
Madman Entertainment
Starring Matthew Faber
Angela Pietropinto
Bill Buell
Emani Sledge
Ellen Barkin
Valerie Shusterov
Richard Masur
Hillary Bailey Smith
Danton Stone
Robert Agri
Hannah Freiman
Stephen Singer
Rachel Corr
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Matthew Brookshire
Nathan Larson
Eytan Mirsky

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (1536Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Director Todd Solondz (Happiness, Storytelling) is no stranger to controversy. All his films deal with elements of society that are generally shunned by mainstream filmmakers. But instead of exploiting the delicate content, Solondz handles these issues with as much discretion as the situation allows, without compromising the overall impact of the scene.

    Palindromes defies convention by having multiple actors playing the lead role. The film's central character, twelve year old Aviva (a palindrome) is played by eight different actors, ranging from a very young black girl, to an extremely large adult woman and even a young boy. The differing personas of Aviva encompass a broad spectrum of society and things are done this way to portray the character and her situation within different social backgrounds. Whether this exercise in character manipulation succeeds is really up to the audience. These actor changes occur in an episodic nature and are surprisingly not at all disruptive to the continuity of the story.

    Palindromes opens with the funeral of  Dawn Wiener (a character from a previous Solondz film, Welcome To The Dollhouse) and then, introduces us to Dawn's cousin, Aviva. Despite the naivety of her young years, Aviva is desperate to have a baby. While at a social gathering with her parents, Joyce and Steve (Ellen Barkin and Richard Masur), Aviva is awkwardly intimate with Judah (Robert Agri), a boy of a similar age to herself and she subsequently becomes pregnant.

   Enraged by the pregnancy, Joyce decides that the only course of action is an abortion. After receiving meticulous and  misguided information from her mother, Aviva finally submits to her parents' wishes and consents to the termination of her pregnancy.

    The presence of anti-abortion protestors at the clinic is unnerving for Aviva, but Joyce is unperturbed in her resolution. A serious complication arises during the procedure, which forces Dr Fleisher (Stephen Singer) to perform an emergency hysterectomy - a fact that is never revealed to Aviva.

    Aviva runs away from home and is picked up by truck driver, Joe (Stephen Adly Guirgis). Joe and Aviva pull off the highway into a motel room and use each other for mutual purposes - Joe for sex and Aviva in her quest to again become pregnant. Aviva is happy to have an "adult" relationship, but Joe is feeling guilty about their one night together and takes an opportunity to flee first thing in the morning.

      Aviva is taken in by Mama Sunshine (Debra Monk), her husband Bo (Walter Bobbie), and her large family of abandoned children. All these children have been abandoned by their natural parents due to some form of handicap. The Sunshine household is nothing but optimistic, overly content and deeply religious. It isn't long before Aviva is swept along with their optimism and is joining in with group activities.

    While in the basement performing one of their gospel songs, the group is visited by family friends, Dr Dan (Richard Riehle) and Earl. Aviva and Earl are frozen in silent angst as they realise they know each other - Earl is in fact truck driver Joe.

    When Aviva secretly listens in on a conversation between Bo, Dr Dan and Earl, she discovers a sinister side to their clean and wholesome religious rhetoric. These men are running a well disguised and menacing anti-abortion campaign, with Dr Fleisher their target for assassination.

    In a desperate attempt to reacquaint herself with Earl, Aviva uses her knowledge of the doctor to draw herself into the dangerous game. She becomes a willing participant in the dreadful mission that Earl has been assigned.

    There is nothing subtle about the way Palindromes delivers its message, but the understated touches of humour and the unique fairy-tale style of the narrative is strangely alluring. Todd Solondz has also deliberately placed many palindromes throughout the film in names and numbers for an observant audience.

    If you have a passion for brave and innovative filmmaking, Palindromes might just fit your bill.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    The video transfer for Palindromes is quite good.

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, which is 16x9 enhanced. The correct aspect ratio for Palindromes is 1.85:1.

    In general Palindromes exhibits a slight softness, which gives the film its fairy tale like atmosphere - this is faithful to the source material. As a result, sharpness levels appear to be marginally less than ideal, but again, this is not an issue with the transfer. Blacks and shadow detail were of a high and consistent quality.

    The colours used in Palindromes perfectly suit the mood of the film. The palette consists of soft, pastel colours, mainly powder blues and dusty pinks. These add considerably to the portrayal of innocence and naivety in the film's main character. There were no adverse issues with colour saturation on the DVD.

    There were no MPEG artefacts in the transfer. Apart from the occasional and minor presence of film grain, there were no artefacts of any great significance. While the transfer was not totally free from film artefacts, they were all negligible and would only be noticed if you were particularly looking for them.

    There are no subtitles available on this DVD.

    This is a single sided, dual layer disc. The layer change is perfectly placed during a character transition at 62:09.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio transfer is also of excellent quality.

    There are three audio tracks available on the DVD; English dts 5.1 (1536Kb/s), English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s) and English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s). It is worth noting that the audio selections are in fact reversed on the setup menu screen. When you select the Dolby Digital 2.0 option, you get the dts audio track and selecting the dts track will actually give you Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. The Dolby Digital 5.1 option on the menu is correct. I listened to the dts track and sampled both Dolby Digital tracks. Although both Dolby Digital audio tracks are indeed excellent, I found the overall fidelity of the dts track made it the clear winner.

    The dialogue quality in Palindromes is exceedingly important. The film is principally dialogue driven with many passages spoken in a very soft manner. I had no problems hearing and comprehending this dialogue, even when whispered.

    There were no adverse issues with audio sync.

    The original musical score by Nathan Larson is light and whimsical. It blends nicely with the innocent, fairy tale nature of the film. There are also original songs by Matthew Brookshire, Eytan Mirsky and Curtis Moore which have been incorporated into the overall soundtrack.

    With the dramatic and dialogue driven nature of the film, the surround presence is quite understated. Music and subtle ambient sounds added enhancement to many scenes. A couple of examples of rare directional sound placement occur at 21:50 and 26:36 with passing cars.

    The subwoofer was used very sparingly and only came to life a few times during the course of the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Apart from a few trailers, there are no significant extras on this DVD.


    The main menu is nicely themed, with subtle animation. It features a music sample from the film and is 16x9 enhanced.

Original Theatrical Trailer

    Palindromes (1:50)

Propaganda Trailer Collection

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    I will compare this R4 version of Palindromes with the Wellspring, R1 version released in September 2005.

    Both versions are the same in terms of extras and only include the original theatrical trailer.

    The obvious difference with the R1 version is the NTSC transfer. The R1version also misses out on the dts audio track - normally this omission is the other way around.

    The R4 version certainly seems the clear winner here.


    Although Palindromes is unlikely to satisfy those with mainstream tastes, it certainly offers something outside of the conventional for those with a passion for such films. Fans of Todd Solondz's previous films seem to be divided on the merits of this film. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed Palindromes and recommend repeated viewings of the film to pick up subtle details easily missed with one viewing.

    The video and audio transfers are both excellent.

    Unfortunately, the extras are limited to trailers.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
Saturday, August 12, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

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