Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

New York Film Festival: Life During Wartime



I had never seen a Todd Solondz film until attending the New York Film Festival screening of Life During Wartime. I had read good things about Welcome to the Dollhouse and Happiness, so I decided to check this film out. Now, I am not sure if I even want to watch his other films. Life During Wartime was one of the most stale and incomprehensive film experiences I have encountered. I have never walked out of a film in my entire life, and after being able to sit through this entire film, I probably never will.

The opening scene is a conversation at a dinner table with two characters we know nothing about, talking about things that we know nothing about. The problem is that this is basically what goes on for the rest of the movie. It’s just one awkward conversation after the next.

The story revolves around a family that includes an incarcerated pedophile (Ciarin Hinds), his wife who is living alone (Allison Janney) and her sister Joy (Shirley Henderson). You may know Henderson from the Harry Potter movies, in which she plays the ghostly "Moaning Myrtle". What I found interesting is that she sounds just like that in Life During Wartime, so I assume she sounds like Myrtle in real life. On top of that, most of her scenes involve her having a conversation or argument with the ghost of her dead lover, who is played by Paul Reubens (yes the one and only) . So you can only imagine how those scenes play out.

There were few positives I can recall from this film. There is Allison Janney, who always delivers no matter what the script demands of her. Michael K Williams plays Joy’s current husband, who is trying to atone for his past sins. Williams stands out in his limited role and he is definitely someone to look out for in the future.

There are some amusing scenes and solid performances but this script is just too convoluted and the film too oblique to connect to. It really lacks any normal narrative structure. I’ll probably check out Welcome to the Dollhouse none the less.

1 / 5 stars


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