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Big Screen | Solondz's "Wartime" Comes To America

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire July 21, 2010 at 12:55PM

Nearly a year after its festival debut, Todd Solondz's "Happiness" quasi-sequel "Life During Wartime" is coming to U.S. theaters via IFC Films. Featuring a cast including Ciaran Hinds, Allison Janney, Paul Reubens, Charlotte Rampling, Ally Sheedy, Michael Lerner, Shirley Henderson and Michael Kenneth Williams, the film revisits the characters of "Happiness" ten years later (with the aforementioned actors each playing roles originated by others in the "Happiness"). Its release is likely a source of serious curiosity for any Solondz fan, and indieWIRE has marked the occasion with both an interview with Solondz, and a look back at the filmmaker's career.
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Nearly a year after its festival debut, Todd Solondz's "Happiness" quasi-sequel "Life During Wartime" is coming to U.S. theaters via IFC Films. Featuring a cast including Ciaran Hinds, Allison Janney, Paul Reubens, Charlotte Rampling, Ally Sheedy, Michael Lerner, Shirley Henderson and Michael Kenneth Williams, the film revisits the characters of "Happiness" ten years later (with the aforementioned actors each playing roles originated by others in the "Happiness"). Its release is likely a source of serious curiosity for any Solondz fan, and indieWIRE has marked the occasion with both an interview with Solondz, and a look back at the filmmaker's career.

As for "Wartime" itself, critics have generally found themselves on the positive side. Upon the film's premiere at the 2009 Venice FIlm Festival, Todd McCarthy (then writing for Variety) made it quite clear how he felt: "In revisiting his darkly comic 1998 ensembler 'Happiness,' Todd Solondz may have made his best film with 'Life During Wartime,'" he writes. "The distinctive, boundary-pushing writer-director has had the eccentric inspiration to resurrect the same central characters a decade later, but using entirely different actors."

The Hollywood Reporter's Deborah Young was equally impressed. She calls "Life" "a heady mix of deadpan humor that boldly uses such topics as pedophilia, race and terrorism to plead the need for forgiveness at a personal and national level."

indieWIRE's own Eric Kohn reviewed the film during the Toronto International Film Festival, and also had kind words for "Wartime." "Despite the director’s four year hiatus from making movies, Todd Solondz’s gravely entertaining touch remains as intact as ever. 'Life During Wartime,' his sixth feature, maintains the droll satiric aura that permeates all of his work," he writes.

"Daring the discomfited viewer to laugh at shame and suffering, and then wonder why we're laughing, Todd Solondz is back," added The Village Voice's J. Hoberman. "'Life During Wartime,' which won Best Screenplay at Venice and had its local premiere at the New York Film Festival, shows the misanthropic moralizer as confounding and trigger-happy as ever, his big clown thumb poised over a garish assortment of hot buttons—race, suicide, autism, sexual misery, self-hatred, Israel, and, his old favorite, pedophilia."

Not everyone was happy, though. Slant's Nick Schager wrote that "unfortunately, [Solondz's] latest—a sequel of sorts to 'Happiness,' his final work which effectively balanced compassion and condescension—finds Solondz still stuck in a rut."

Empire Magazine's Andrew Male said that while the film is "possibly a brave and interesting triumph for its director," it's also "definitely a cold-eyed heartless bore for his audience."

Check out links to "Life During Wartime"'s indieWIRE page as well as other films opening this weekend (including acclaimed docs "Mugabe and the White African" and "Countdown To Zero"), plus recent theatrical releases below. They include synopses, trailers, and a variety of criticWIRE grades and links to reviews.

iW Film Calendar & criticWIRE:
criticWIRE | Opening this week | Opening this month | All Films A - Z

criticWIRE: Films Opening This Week

Mugabe and the White African (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: A-

Countdown To Zero (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

Life During Wartime (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B-


criticWIRE: Films Currently In Theaters

Dogtooth (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: A-

The Agony and the Ectascy of Phil Spector (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: A-

Alamar (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: A-

The Kids Are All Right (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

Restrepo (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

I Am Love (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

Inception (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

Cyrus (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

Winnebago Man (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

[REC] 2 (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

Kisses (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B-

The Girl Who Played With Fire (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B-

Valhalla Rising (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: C+

The Killer Inside Me (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: C+

Love Ranch (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: D+

Peter Knegt is indieWIRE's Associate Editor. Follow him on Twitter and on his blog.

This article is related to: In Theaters, Mugabe and the White African






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