Saturday, July 10, 2010

Life During Wartime - "Not Everyone's Cup of Tea, but worth checking out"

Life During Wartime directed by Todd Solondz is the (sort of) sequel to his 1998 cult classic Happiness. I say sort of sequel, because Todd uses the same characters, but played by different actors and continues their stories ten years on. Having only hazy memories of Happiness, viewed far too late one night many years ago,it was a relief to find that Life During Wartime is a stand alone and unique film, dealing in a darkly humorous way with sexuality, pedophilia and loneliness.

The cast which includes Allison Janney (best known as CJ Craig in the West Wing) and Shirely Henderson (Think British cinema,ie Trainspotting, Bridget Jones' Diary, Wonderland etc) as sisters, are excellent. Their performances are adept and detailed. Alley Sheedy (from Breakfast Club fame) also makes a brief appearance as the now famous sister who is sleeping with Keau Reeves. Small aside - You never see Reeves, though do (apparently) hear him in the throws of lovemaking with Sheedy.

Newcomer Dylan Riley Snyder plays Timmy (Allison Janney's youngest son) who is horrified to discover that his father (whom he believed dead) is alive and being released from prison after serving a ten year sentence for pedophilia. Timmy finding it impossible, at 12, to express very complex feelings about his father, instead creates problems for his mother and her new boyfriend, which turn out to be irreparable. As with Happiness there are multiple storylines which intersect showing a world full of pain and doubt.

The script is clever, but simple, never overstating anything. With pangs of sadness and touches of dark humour it's nothing if not original. Not surprising then that the script recently won best screenplay at the Venice Film Festival.

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