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Monday, November 15, 2004

Here's a report on the New York Film Festival that suggests that the other hip abortion film making the rounds is pro-lifish.

The story concerns a supposedly liberal mum (a brilliant Ellen Barkin) who makes her daughter have an abortion, despite the girl's ardent wish to keep the baby. The operation doesn't work and she's left infertile, only nobody bothers to tell her. The girl, Aviva, starts on a road trip, offering herself to a pedophile trucker whom she is sure will impregnate her a.s.a.p. A kind of Dorothy in reverse, she ends up with a scary Christian family in Kansas. The Sunshines take in adopted kids with all kinds of deficiencies. They fight abortion, literally, but they also provide more love and care than Aviva ever had at her stifling East Coast home.

Solondz wants to make sure we know it's a fable, so Aviva is played by three actresses, to create a bit more distance. It works really well, thanks to their natural acting. Only the most experienced one, Jennifer Jason Leigh, feels too full of tricks to be an Aviva. In fact, when casting all of the handicapped, musical Sunshine kids, Solondz emphasised to parents that he wasn't being exploitative. He just wanted them to have fun together.

Palindromes was nominated for a Gold Lion in Venice, yet didn't get a US distributor until the morning of the New York press screening. It's a brave company that buys this film (Wellspring, see also Tarnation) because as the ensuing press conference proved - Americans have a hard time looking beyond the moral issues.

In a weird way, it's a declaration of love to the fly-over states by a Jersey suburban geek with bile to spare. Solondz realizes that rather than dismissing the American heartland as ignorant Bush country, it's healthier to examine it closely. He said he's afraid it's turned into a pro-life film, but it's really patriotism à la Solondz. Too bad the Upper West Side liberals he makes fun of in his film - and there were hundreds of them during the press conference - didn't see it that way. One of them chided my neighbour for chuckling too loud during the film. I'm pretty sure he was member of the Serbian press corps.

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