Aviva is thirteen, awkward and sensitive. Her mother Joyce is warm and loving, as is her father, Steve, a regular guy who does have a fierce temper from time to time. The film revolves around her family, friends and neighbors.
Jennifer Jason Leigh,
Stephen Adly Guirgis
When a woman wakes up on a Hamptons beach in fugue state, all assumptions about her identity are thrown into doubt in this psychological thriller starring Alex Auder and Gaby Hoffmann. Is ... See full summary »
Todd Solondz plays a high schooler who wants to get into MIT. The only problem is, his gym teacher hates him, and fails him because he can't hit a shot in basketball. He also has no luck ... See full summary »
Separated from her incarcerated husband Bill (Hinds), Trish (Janney) is about to be married again. Bill is a pedophile, so Trish couldn't be more excited to have Harvey (Lerner), a "normal" father figure for her two sons. But when Bill is released from prison and the boys finally meet their future stepdad, the family is forced to decide whether to forgive or to forget. Trish's sister, the virginal, angelic Joy (Henderson), is also haunted by ghosts of lovers past. On leave from her degenerate husband, Allen (Williams), and her job at a New Jersey correctional facility, Joy unwittingly leaves behind a trail of shame and exposed secrets wherever she goes. In one of the film's most stylized sequences, the image of Joy walking the dark streets of Miami in her nightgown maintains her innocence against a backdrop of self-affliction and desire. Written by
11 years after Happiness, his poisonous stab at moral absolutism, Todd Solondz returned with this equally bleak sequel, a continuation of the all-American domestic grotesque. The characters return, except now played by different actors (including a bleary Paul "Pee Wee" Reubens), as does Solondz' ability to challenge expectations with disarming directness and surgical precision.
This is a less consistent film than its predecessor, particularly in terms of tone. Happiness harboured an almost garish John Waters trash aesthetic, whereas Wartime often shifts into something more sombrely lit and handsome, even entering noir territory at times, as when Ciaran Hinds' Bill and Charlotte Rampling's Jacqueline meet in a whisky-coloured bar to do semantic battle before indulging in a bout of loveless sex.
The characters are mostly horror movie monsters masked in the fascia of suburban admissibility - none more so than Trish (Allison Janney), the selfish mad-mom who is delighted by the fallacy of the nuclear ideal, lusting after "normal". Her son, Timmy (Dylan Riley Snyder), is the traumatised voice of reason: a humanist on the cusp of corruption. Then there is Joy (Shirley Henderson), a deep-feeling adult alone amidst the animal chaos: frail, fragile and bereft (in mind and body); in search of absent metaphysical guidance; a closed book desperate to do good; desperate to stop pretending any more.
Loneliness, rape, suicide and despair all echo in a bubble of carefully constructed sentimentality. Wartime doesn't quite carry the joke all the way. Certain latter scenes, particularly involving Hinds' recently-released Bill, are played disconcertingly straight. But then this is a film about the pathology of forgiveness (the film's former title), the corrosive nature of trauma, and the final consolation of repression and faith - themes in which perhaps even Mr Solondz couldn't find the humour.
"You die for me and I will know you love me," says Allen (The Wire's Michael Kenneth Williams) from the grave. No one in American cinema is better than Solondz at highlighting fickleness and absurdity of human interaction, and the paradoxes we contrive for ourselves. And although it can be wearying to endure such an indictment, we will always need filmmakers willing to float like faecal matter in Hollywood's homogenous soup.
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