Life During Wartime


Life During Wartime

Critics Consensus

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



Total Count: 103


Audience Score

User Ratings: 6,229
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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 bitterness toward both her family and her career. Their mother, Mona (Renée Taylor), wants absolutely nothing to do with men. And, ex-con Bill (Ciarán Hinds), Trish's former husband, wants to reconcile with their son. Life During Wartime is a pseudo-sequel to Solondz's Happiness with different actors playing the same characters from that earlier film.

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Critic Reviews for Life During Wartime

All Critics (103) | Top Critics (38)

  • Helen may not be for everyone, but to at least some of us, she's irresistible.

    Feb 7, 2018 | Full Review…
  • I'd never have predicted something this mediocre.

    Jan 3, 2011 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Dec 27, 2010 | Rating: 3/5
  • 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.

    Sep 8, 2010 | Rating: 2/4
  • The daring director is still a fascinating craftsman, but now we don't feel welcome in his dollhouse.

    Aug 27, 2010 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
  • For all of Solondz's mischief, we sense he likes his unhelpable characters, and that they maybe like each other. A little bit, anyway.

    Aug 27, 2010 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Life During Wartime

  • Feb 17, 2013
    Eerily cheerful in this follow up to the first film. I hated the ensemble, I hated the fact that all the characters were replaced, not for good. But the screenplay was fantastic, as usual, very dark and deep. Life During Wartime did not fail to impress and entertain.
    Sylvester K Super Reviewer
  • Feb 09, 2013
    Then there's Life During Wartime, the sequel to Happiness. All the questions I never had are more or less answered here. Some of the references actually did put a smile on my face, but for the most part I found it dull. It's not much worse than Happiness, but that's not saying to much. I felt it was to colorful for the topics at hand, and never really accomplished anything.
    Daniel D Super Reviewer
  • Sep 01, 2012
    <i>"People can't help it if they're monsters."</i> Friends, family, and lovers struggle to find love, forgiveness, and meaning in a war-torn world riddled with comedy and pathos. <center><font size=+2 face="Century Schoolbook"><b><u>REVIEW</u></b></font></center> 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.
    Lorenzo v Super Reviewer
  • Aug 18, 2012
    If you have never seen a Todd Solondz film than you will probably enjoy this alot more. My problem with it is that it feels Solondz is very indulgent and lazy fitting this film together with pieces that he has shown us multiple times before. Not one time in this film is there that fun house balance of over the top darkness and comedy that is in 'Happiness', it is either just awkward or flat. It is very very predictable which is one of the worst things that a Solondz film should be.
    Hassan V Super Reviewer

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