Ten years after the critically acclaimed 'Happiness', Todd Solondz revisits the tangled personal lives of three sisters in this savagely funny satire of middle class mores. Joy (Shirley Henderson) is married to a man with an unresolved 'affliction' and haunted by a former lover; Trish (Allison Janney) meets an unlikely new suitor while her ex-con ex-husband attempts to reconnect with their young son; meanwhile Helen (Ally Sheedy) feels pressured by her family and her Hollywood success. Featuring an all-star cast, this emotionally resonant portrait of flawed but fascinating characters struggling to find love and meaning in an unsympathetic world is poignant, sometimes shocking and often hilarious.
- Life During Wartime review by Shatner's Bassoon
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I've grown to be a fan of Todd Solondz's films and although I initially hated it 'Happiness' is now easily one of my favourite films. 'Life During Wartime' is a direct sequel to 'Happiness' set ten years after the events of Solondz's 1998 film, the story follows the lives of sisters Joy, Helen and Trish. Helen has now become a successful screenwriter, Trish is in the first bloom of love with a older man, and Joy now working with ex-offenders is married to a reformed gang member and criminal. While 'Happiness' was a blissfully dark and uncomfortable film its sequel is a far tamer affair. Giving the reason that he thought it would be liberating, Solondz recast the entire film with different actors playing the same characters featured in Happiness. This would have been a nice twist to the film but in reality the new cast is a poor imitation of those featured in the earlier film, Allison Janney in particular looked awkward and wooden as Trish and Shirley Henderson reduced Joy to quite a feeble and weak character; the rest of the cast were also fairly unremarkable. The story was also disappointingly weak, limping along for an hour the story only really came to life in the final 30 minutes. Overall, this really is a lacklustre effort from Todd Solondz which totally lacks the edginess, dark humour, spirit and powerful story of his earlier film and if it wasn't for the fact Solondz name is in the titles I really wouldn't have associated it as one of his films. I really wanted to love this film but compared to his past work it's a real disappointment.