Life During Wartime movie review: Separated from her incarcerated husband Bill (Hinds), Trish (Janney) is about to be married again. Bill is a pedophile, so Trish couldn't be more excited to have Harvey (Lerner), a normal father figure for her two sons. But when Bill is released from prison and the boys finally meet their future stepdad, the family is forced to decide whether to forgive or to forget. Trish's sister, the virginal, angelic Joy (Henderson), is also haunted by ghosts of lovers past. On leave from her degenerate husband, Allen (Williams), and her job at a New Jersey correctional facility, Joy unwittingly leaves behind a trail of shame and exposed secrets wherever she goes. In one of the film's most stylized sequences, the image of Joy walking the dark streets of Miami in her nightgown maintains her innocence against a backdrop of self-affliction and desire.
The buzz: “Wartime” is the sequel to 1998's “Happiness,” writer-director Todd Solondz's controversial tale of sexual and moral corruption, and picks up 10 years after the shocking events of that first film. But in a ballsy creative choice, Solondz has completely recast his sequel with all-new actors. (The original featured Philip Seymour Hoffman and Lara Flynn Boyle, among others.) It's a canny twist on the casting stunt that he used for his last film, 2004’s “Palindromes,” in which eight actors played the same 12-year-old girl.
The verdict: Just a little déjà vu—that's how Joy describes a dinner she's having with her pervy boyfriend at the beginning of the movie. But it also perfectly describes Solondz's darkly funny homecoming for Wartime, in which he revisits the depraved themes of Happiness with the same degree of deadpan humor and—yes—sympathy. Because the whole cast has been switched up, moviegoers who've seen the first film will feel like they're looking at a shattered reflections. (Trust me: You'll want to watch Happiness before seeing this one.) And that's exactly what I suspect Solondz wanted to achieve: a jagged and skewed image of family dynamics gone horribly awry…and horribly funny. (At one point, Trish—single and dating—tells her son that a man she met made me wet.) There's a funky kind of cinematic sadism going on here—Solondz can’t seem to resist torturing these characters. And yet, ironic as it may seem, Solondz reveals himself as a kind and compassionate optimist. By rebooting his cast for Wartime, he seems to be saying: Rebirth is possible even in the face of tragedy and misery. Source: Metromix