This Movie Guy Headline Animator

Monday, January 3, 2011



You can watch the trailer here

I'd like to start by saying that if you haven't seen Todd Solondz's brilliant 1998 film Happiness, then you should probably watch it before you delve into Life During Wartime. It's kind of a sequel, but at the same time, it isn't. None of the original cast comes back, but we're dealing with the same characters and the same families, and it partially picks up about eleven years down the road. Because I'm sure that most people won't have seen Happiness, I don't want to go into too much detail concerning the plot of Life During Wartime. You really should see the first movie - it's a little difficult to watch, but if you "get" the comedy of it, it'll be one of the funniest movies you'll ever see. Life During Wartime simply continues the story, showing the struggles that the characters faced in the first film and how they try to overcome them. A big chunk of this film deals with the concept of forgiving and forgetting and the emotional release that goes along with it.

This film's screenplay starts out very well, giving us the same edginess that Happiness brought twelve years ago. It threw in a couple homages to the original film, and we quickly pick up with a number of character, although some of them look nothing like they did the first time around (i.e., Philip Seymour Hoffman's character Allen is now played by Michael K. Williams). I fell right back into the story, remembering every little nuance of the characters. However, I felt like some of the characters had drastically changed in personality. Sure, they gap in time and the circumstances in their lives may have led to such changes, but some of them seemed a little too drastic. Perhaps that's more on the actors, but more on that in a moment. My biggest issue with Life During Wartime was that it didn't have the bit that Happiness had. Happiness deliberately pushed the boundaries of taboo subjects, and while Life During Wartime started to push similar boundaries, it never once nailed the subject on the head. That's what was so great about Solondz's first venture into these characters' lives - it took you to the edge then kicked you over. Life During Wartime just let us look over the precipice.

As I previously mentioned, the entire cast has been substituted from the first film, and with a twelve year difference in release date, it's not all that surprising. I feel like Solondz would have either wanted everyone back or have no one back, and the latter probably happened. While the cast is good, I just couldn't see any of them as their respective characters. Whenever I saw Allison Janney on the screen, I kept thinking of Cynthia Stevenson. The same goes for most of the rest of the adult cast. I did, however, think that Paul Reubens channeled Jon Lovitz's original performance perfectly, bringing more life to an individual we only saw for one scene in Happiness. So kudos to him. This isn't to say that the cast is bad; it's just difficult to see them play these characters.

I don't know what more I can say about the film. Don't watch it unless you've previously seen Happiness (which everyone should see, but be ready for a disturbing black comedy that you might be afraid to love). If you enjoy that, then give Life During Wartime a chance because it's a solid, if slightly unnecessary, follow-up.

Movie Review Summary:
Grade: C+
Thumb... Ever-so-slightly up

No comments:

Post a Comment