“Their Christianity seems worthy of celebration…”

An interesting passage in J.R. Jones’s review of Todd Solondz’s Palindromes:

Solondz has invoked The Wizard of Oz when talking about the theme of Palindromes — there’s no place like home — but Mama and Bo Sunshine’s adopted family is more like the Island of Misfit Toys: most of the children suffer from some congenital affliction, from blindness to missing limbs to Down syndrome. Yet the family is so perfectly loving that for Aviva their home is a paradise. The Sunshines serve as a rebuke not only to her chilly mother but also to Solondz’s mostly left-leaning core audience, who might be tempted to dismiss born-again Christians as idiots.

To some extent the Sunshines are idiots: their breakfast banquet includes heaping platters of “freedom toast,” and the kids collaborate on a Christian rock act called the Sunshine Singers, with prerecorded dance tracks to back their soaring harmonies and synchronized dance moves. Their production numbers are both funny and acutely uncomfortable: casting actors with real disabilities is nothing new, but collecting them into a horrendously tacky showbiz exercise can’t help bringing to mind Tod Browning’s 1932 circus story Freaks. I was a bit ashamed of myself for laughing — a combination of feelings that Solondz courts aggressively, though he avoids any taint of exploitation through his genuine tenderness toward the children. They’re so buoyant, so kind, and so accepting of one another that their Christianity seems worthy of celebration, and the thought of aborting any one of them, as Aviva’s mother surely would have, seems monstrous. It’s the most daring and emotionally complex joke of Solondz’s career, and I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet has two passions: writing fiction, and celebrating art — music, cinema, photography, literature — through writing and teaching. He is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” — Through a Screen Darkly. And his four-novel fantasy series, The Auralia Thread, which begins with Auralia's Colors, was published by Random House. He speaks at universities and conferences around the world about understanding art through eyes of faith. He is earning his MFA in Creative Writing at Seattle Pacific University, where he has worked for 11 years as an editor, writer, and communications project manager. His work has been recognized in The New Yorker, TIME, The Seattle Times, IMAGE, Ravi Zacharias International — and Christianity Today, where he served as a film journalist for more than a decade. He recently began a weekly column called "Listening Closer" for Christ and Pop Culture.

  • jasdye

    I’ve gotten puke-sick of people using the Matrix as a Christian allegory. It was cute the first six years…

    And, Gooooooo, ArcFire!!

    (Five Iron Frenzy has a song called “Handbook for the Sellout” about a band losing its base of fans simply because it’s becoming popular. Obviously AF has been super-hyped the last 1/2 year. Waiting for that backlash…)

  • laiq

    Solondz’s mostly left-leaning core audience… might be tempted to dismiss born-again Christians as idiots

    Thanks to statements like that, yes.