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
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
Twisting normal life into something that is weirdly funny and strangely bizarre
Dark, funny and tragic, "Life During Wartime" is like a satire of one of those dysfunctional family dramedies. But by creating characters that are just outside of arm's reach and having them say things that are more tragic than funny, it's more like it is a family dramedy than a satire of one.
Joy (Shirley Henderson) is married to a drug addict and phone sex addict and she thinks she's going to cure him, instead she's off wandering this world on her own. Trish (Allison Janney) has finally found a "normal" guy and is raising her kids to forget about their pedophile father. I remember enjoying Todd Solondz's previous films "Welcome to the Dollhouse", "Storytelling" and "Happiness" (which this is some kind of bizarre continuation of some of the same characters, none of the same actors), but this one was presented to me as if these are somewhat "normal" people but they don't do anything or say anything in normal ways.
It is funny. To some people, it's funny in a laugh-out-loud way because the filmmaker is daring enough to have the characters say things which normal people wouldn't say. To other people, it's funny because it's a real representation of how dark the world is. To me it's funny in an awkward and uncomfortable way since these "normal" characters are saying such inappropriate things.
I was left on the outside looking in because these "normal" characters are not normal, they are weird, bizarre and off-putting. Solondz was trying to walk that very thin line of laughing at the characters but caring about them at the same time and going through the same emotional turmoil that they are. I ended up on the wrong side of that line, where I nervously laughed at them occasionally but didn't care about them at all.
It's not really straight-out funny enough to be a satire, but then again, Solondz doesn't really do anything straight. This is good writing and good filmmaking where subtle hints at the characters' fantasies become their reality, which become an indictment of the society that we live in "Life During Wartime." As the saying goes, it's funny because it's true, but the characters are just a little too far from normal to be true.
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