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Life During Wartime (2010)



Average Rating: 6.4/10
Reviews Counted: 97
Fresh: 67 | Rotten: 30

With Life During Wartime, Todd Solondz delivers an unexpected semi-sequel to Happiness in typically uncompromising fashion.


Average Rating: 6.4/10
Critic Reviews: 31
Fresh: 20 | Rotten: 11

With Life During Wartime, Todd Solondz delivers an unexpected semi-sequel to Happiness in typically uncompromising fashion.



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Average Rating: 3.1/5
User Ratings: 6,125

My Rating

Movie Info

Directed by Todd Solondz, this ensemble film tells the tale of a large dysfunctional family. Joy (Shirley Henderson) continues to have problems with her husband, Allen (Michael Kenneth Williams), and looks to her family for advice. A dead former boyfriend (Paul Reubens) continues to try to win her heart from the great beyond. Joy's sister, Trish (Allison Janney), meets a retiree whom she hopes will normalize her chaotic life. A third sister, screenwriter Helen (Ally Sheedy), is full of


Drama, Comedy

Todd Solondz

Jul 26, 2011


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All Critics (99) | Top Critics (31) | Fresh (67) | Rotten (30) | DVD (5)

I'd never have predicted something this mediocre.

January 3, 2011 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Life During Wartime, which feels like a movie made to fulfill a contractual obligation, says nothing new, nothing that Happiness didn't already say, only better.

September 8, 2010 Full Review Source: Miami Herald
Miami Herald
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The daring director is still a fascinating craftsman, but now we don't feel welcome in his dollhouse.

August 27, 2010 Full Review Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic IconTop Critic

For all of Solondz's mischief, we sense he likes his unhelpable characters, and that they maybe like each other. A little bit, anyway.

August 27, 2010 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail
Top Critic IconTop Critic

An easy film to dislike, a piece of cake to admire and all but impossible to love. But I think that's part of the intent.

August 27, 2010 Full Review Source: Toronto Star
Toronto Star
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Solondz treats his characters with all the compassion of a child frying ants with a magnifying glass.

August 19, 2010 Full Review Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A daring tragicomedy revolving around the theme of forgiveness and forgetting in the post-9/11 years.

August 15, 2011 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Strikes the right balance between funny, disturbing and truthful.

August 4, 2011 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

works extremely well, especially in the way its challenging material is contrasted by the bright, sunny cinematography, which captures southern Florida in all its gaudy, inferno-ice-cream-colored splendor

August 3, 2011 Full Review Source: Q Network Film Desk
Q Network Film Desk

A typically horny-thorny Solondzian dramedy...Solondz's is a universe of limitless disappointment. [Blu-ray]

August 1, 2011 Full Review Source: Groucho Reviews
Groucho Reviews

A wonderful, must-own transfer by the Criterion Collection of one of last year's best films.

August 1, 2011 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

It feels a little wrong, even perverse, to describe a Todd Solondz film as 'fun'. But Life During Wartime - the sequel to his acclaimed and highly disturbing 1998 picture Happiness - is fun.

January 5, 2011 Full Review Source: Quickflix

Definitely not a film for everybody, but (Todd) Solondz fans...will find plenty to chew on as he continues his exploration into the wounded lives of three sisters and their fractured families.

December 27, 2010 Full Review Source: The Age (Australia)
The Age (Australia)

Solondz... might have maintained sympathy for these characters before, but now seems to hate them as much as they hate themselves.

October 8, 2010 Full Review Source: Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune

A mere shadow of its predecessor.

October 1, 2010 Full Review Source: Kansas City Star
Kansas City Star

A perilous balancing act that the writer-director doesn't quite pull off, though he's populated it with an exceptional cast.

September 23, 2010 Full Review Source: One Guy's Opinion
One Guy's Opinion

Filmgoers who like their comedy so dark that they might forget to laugh will delight in Todd Solondz's Life During Wartime.

September 23, 2010 Full Review Source: Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Todd Solondz's "Life During Wartime" is full of characters who make the same mistakes over and over again, unable to change their bad habits. He must know just how they feel.

September 10, 2010 Full Review Source: Wisconsin State Journal | Comment (1)
Wisconsin State Journal

I don't know if this is a negative thing to say about a Solondz film, but there are ultimately glimmers in this one of what could almost be described as hope.

August 27, 2010 Full Review Source: Jam! Movies
Jam! Movies

Happiness didn't really need a follow-up; it said everything it needed to say and had quite the indelible, ahem, climax.

August 26, 2010 Full Review Source: Oregonian

Human self-inflicted suffering that heaps contempt on its characters while showing empathy for their pain

August 26, 2010 Full Review Source: Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
Metro Times (Detroit, MI)

Audience Reviews for Life During Wartime

"People can't help it if they're monsters."

Friends, family, and lovers struggle to find love, forgiveness, and meaning in a war-torn world riddled with comedy and pathos.

Director Todd Solondz takes the various dysfunctional characters of his earlier film, "Happiness", recasts them, and places them in "Life During Wartime". This facial reshuffling then becomes an enquiry on Solondz's part: have these people changed? Are major personality or life changes even possible? How contingent is human behaviour? How reversible are past scars? "Happiness" was a jet black comedy which jumped from paedophilia to suicide to masturbation to divorce to murder, deftly hopping from taboo to taboo with a kind of soul crushing cruelty. For Solondz, everything is a masquerade, humans are petty, pathetic and cruel, and every good deed merely masks something horrible at worst, hypocritical at best.

With "Wartime" Solondz tries to recapture the cringe comedy and satirical edge of "Happiness", but fails entirely, modern audiences now desensitised to his particular brand of sensationalism. With the taboo shocks out the window, his audience is then free to focus on the film's clunky message: the past scars the future, Solondz says, but all should be forgiven, lest a cycle of animosity, hate, fear and torment be perpetuated. The film then aligns these themes to the events of September the 11th; America as a nation should forgive those who abuse her, as those upon whom pain is inflicted in the film should forgive their tormentors, or themselves if necessary. It's all very reductive, but far from the misanthropy which critics of Solondz often accuse him of spouting. If anything, Solondz's a jaded idealist, his characters all looking for a way out of the rut he keeps digging them deeper into.
September 1, 2012
Lorenzo von Matterhorn

Super Reviewer

Like most of (no, more like all of) Todd Solondz's work, this film is not for everyone. I am a huge fan of Happiness and Welcome to the Dollhouse and even found a soft spot for Palindromes. I think he is one of the most original writer/director's out there. I like the fact that he makes you uncomfortable and, by doing that, probably makes some of the most human films we have seen. This film is about forgiveness and while it has some missteps (I understand the fact that they are kids, but Dylan Riley Snyder as Timmy was nails on a chalk board bad in some scenes), I still felt something after watching it and that's more than I can say for a lot of things I watch these days.
September 4, 2011

Super Reviewer

There are a bunch of great moments and performances in Todd Solondz's "LIFE DURING WARTIME," and some dialogue that ranks with his best, but the film never fully gels as a whole or a standalone. A "sequel" of sorts to the fantastic "Happiness," Solondz's latest feels like it was made so the director himself could revisit and give (some) closure to these characters he obviously has a lot of love for, but he in turn never delivers a narrative that viewers can fully connect with (especially when compared to HAPPINESS; which is immanent). Still, I liked the film. It's completely (disappointingly) tame and it may be kind of forgettable, but the quirky charm and hints of greatness won me over. A mild recommendation..

Despite what you may have heard, watch HAPPINESS first! You'll probably hate this film otherwise. Not knowing who the characters are going in will make portions extremely frustrating.
August 16, 2011

Super Reviewer

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