Life During Wartime


1h 36m 2009

Brief Synopsis

Follows a group of people struggling to find a place for themselves in an unpredictable and volatile world. The past haunts the present and imperils the future: ghosts circle and loom, trouble and console. The question of forgiveness and its limits threads throughout a series of intersecting love st

Film Details

Also Known As
Forgiveness, New Todd Solondz Film, The, Untitled (Todd Solondz Project), Untitled Todd Solondz Film
MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Comedy
Dark Comedy
Drama
Release Date
2009
Distribution Company
IFC Films
Location
San Juan, Puerto Rico

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 36m

Synopsis

Follows a group of people struggling to find a place for themselves in an unpredictable and volatile world. The past haunts the present and imperils the future: ghosts circle and loom, trouble and console. The question of forgiveness and its limits threads throughout a series of intersecting love stories, offering clarity and possibly alternatives to the comforts of forgetting.

Crew

Rosi Acosta

Unit Production Manager

Jessica Allen

Visual Effects

Edgar Alvarez

Generator Operator

Sara Alvarez

Production Coordinator

Victor M Andujar

Set Production Assistant

Eddie Antunez

On-Set Dresser

Jose A Arias

Transportation Captain

Juan Carlos Arvelo

Set Production Assistant

Ken Bailey

Coproducer

Devendra Banhart

Song

Devendra Banhart

Song Performer

Terry Banting

Gaffer

Aaron Barnett

Production Supervisor

John Barrett

Hair Stylist

Paul Bercovitch

Sound Effects Editor

Paul Berglund

Property Master

Roshelle Berliner

Production Designer

Doug Bernheim

Music Supervisor

Eddie Berrios

Driver

Dana Bloder

Camera

Jerry Bock

Song

Dominique Borrell

Makeup

Darren Boyce

Key Grip

Steve Boyle

Post-Production Accountant

Ciara Brennan

Costume Supervisor

Budesh Bridgepaul

Payroll Accountant

Jill Broadfoot

Art Director

Randy Brown

Best Boy Electric

Richard Brown

Extras Agent/Coordinator

Angel A Bula

Driver

Claudia Calderon

Assistant

Jon Cameron

Electrician

Stuart Campbell

Production Assistant

Tim Carleton

Driver

Safak Shaun Cengiz

Location Manager

Rachel Chapman

Casting Assistant

Peter Clemence

Key Grip

Edward Cohen

Gaffer

Camille Collazo

Casting Assistant

Danielle Colli

Casting Assistant

Yvonne Collins

Assistant Camera

Oscar A Colom Cruz

On-Set Dresser

Luis E Colon Arroyo

On-Set Dresser

Francisco Cordero Malave

Key Grip

Antonio Correa

Production Assistant

David Coulter

Assistant Director

Kathryn Criston

Electrician

Javier Cruzado

Best Boy Grip

Wilmar Davila

Craft Service

Matteo De Cosmo

Art Director

John Deblau

Gaffer

Carla Del Manzano

Costumes

Noel Doyle

Scenic Artist

David Dustin

Medic

Soux Ellis

Scenic Artist

Fausto Espinosa

Driver

Luis R. Estrella

Location Manager

Bill Felker

Assistant Camera

Jorge Fernandez

Props

Raul Ferrer

Caterer

Dean Fester

Driver

Jeremy Fleishman

Foley Editor

Rob Fletcher

Sound Mixer

Cameron Folan

Costumes

Hilda Frontanes

Accounting Assistant

Carlos Garcia

Assistant Camera

Gerald Garcia

Song Performer

Kurt W Gensmer

Medic

Catherine George

Costume Designer

Rick Gilbert

Art Director

Morning Glory

Camera

Luis Gonzalez

Driver

Mark Goodman

Song

Juan Guallini

Driver

Elena Guede

Art Department

Dave Halls

Assistant Director

Elizabeth Hanley

Post-Production Accountant

Craig Hanson

Best Boy Electric

Sheldon Harnick

Song

Fred Helm

Adr/Dialogue Editor

Pablo Segui Hernandez

Audio

Pete Hernandez

Security

Charles Herzfeld

Camera

Anthony Hollier

Transportation Coordinator

Terry Hooper

Best Boy Grip

Nelson Huertas

Grip

Bonita Huffman

Set Decorator

Bryant Huffman

On-Set Dresser

Frank Intorcia

Sound

Katalina Iturralde

Set Costumer

Steven Jacobson

Electrician

Axel Jaeger

Song Performer

Kemel Jamis

Set Production Assistant

Loida Jeannot

Hair

Scott Jolstad

Grip

Matt Joyer

Art Department Assistant

Luis Jurado

Transportation Coordinator

Rona Katz

Accountant

Barbara Jean Kearney

Camera

Gayle Keller

Casting Director

Frank Ketchum

Driver

Thomas Kodros

Sound

Kip Konwiser

Production

Sam Kretchmar

Camera

Brian Kring

Location Manager

Edward Lachman

Director Of Photography

Ben Laffin

Titles

Maureen Landa Mcgavin

Hair & Makeup

Luis A Landrau

Boom Operator

Tanya Lemke

Property Master

Joe Lervold

Song Performer

Abimael Linares

Costumes

Tere Lopez

Casting Director

Kim Maclachlan

Assistant Director

Luis Edgardo Maldonado

On-Set Dresser

Raul Marin

Accounting Assistant

Steve Marion

Boom Operator

Ricky Marquez

Electrician

Peter Marshall

Accountant

Brendan Mcfadden

Casting Assistant

David C Mckane

Assistant Camera

Beez Mckeever

Wardrobe Supervisor

Jim Mcmillan

Key Grip

Rita Medina Rodriguez

Location Coordinator

Aris Mejias

Production

Esther Mejias

Production Coordinator

Jorge Mendoza

Scenic Artist

Nydia Mercedes

Property Master

Kevin Messman

Editor

Benjamin Knox Miller

Song Performer

Liliana M Molina

Script Supervisor

Willie Montanez

Assistant Camera

Fausto Montero

Art Department Assistant

Michael Montes

Song Performer

Jim Morgan

Sound

Leanne Morrison

Hair

Jesse Morrow

Visual Effects

Mariella Navarro

Art Department Coordinator

Ricardo Naveira

Construction Coordinator

Neftali Nieves

Dolly Grip

Robbi O'quinn

Makeup

Eric Offin

Sound Re-Recording Mixer

Eric Offin

Sound Editor

Angie Olmedo

Set Costumer

Jedrek Oquendo

Production Assistant

Anibal Pabon

Electrician

Mariam Padial

Location Manager

Gabriel Padilla

Best Boy Electric

Joaquin Padilla

Grip

Luis E. Pagan

Art Department Assistant

Daniel Pane

Camera

Javier Enrique Perez

Assistant Director

Marcos Pesquera

Grip

Andrew Peterson

Coproducer

Misael Rodriguez Quijano

Camera Assistant

Ana C Ramirez

Costumer

Diana Roldos Ramos

Hair

Elizabeth Redleaf

Executive Producer

Kelly Richardson

Electrician

Manuel Rivera

Grip

Oggie Rivera

Grip

Ariel Rodriguez

Driver

Elba Z Rodriguez

Tailor

Sylvia Rodriguez

Makeup

Francisco J Roman

Still Photographer

Jerry Romanko

Grip

Japhet A Romero

On-Set Dresser

Luis A Rosado

Driver

Heriberto Rosas

Sound Mixer

Mike S Ryan

Executive Producer

Kathryn J Schubert

Assistant Editor

Paul Sebastianelli

Boom Operator

Marc Shaiman

Song

Anne Healy Shapiro

Location Manager

Brian Simpson

On-Set Dresser

Jeff Smallcombe

Dolly Grip

Gianna Sobol

Casting Assistant

Todd Solondz

Song

Todd Solondz

Screenplay

Steve Speers

Assistant Camera

Mark Steele

Associate Producer

Tim Stipan

Colorist

Sarah Storbakken

Craft Service

Mike Strickland

Song Performer

Orlando Suarez

Electrician

Amy Thompson

Production Assistant

Jay Tilin

Visual Effects

Angela Torres-santini "kuka"

Location Scout

Marsha Trainer

Production

David Trossi

Driver

Derrick Tseng

Producer

Cerah Tymoshuk

Costumer

Brian Vancho

Foley Artist

Jose R Varona

Medic

Sonetchka Velez

Trainer

Peter Von Grossman

Grip

Christine Kunewa Walker

Producer

Sebastian Wernke Schmiesing

Song Performer

Mike Whipple

Camera

Michael Wiggins

Accountant

Film Details

Also Known As
Forgiveness, New Todd Solondz Film, The, Untitled (Todd Solondz Project), Untitled Todd Solondz Film
MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Comedy
Dark Comedy
Drama
Release Date
2009
Distribution Company
IFC Films
Location
San Juan, Puerto Rico

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 36m

Articles

Life During Wartime - LIFE DURING WARTIME - Todd Solondz's 2010 sequel to the controversial 1998 film Happiness


Viewer opinions on director Todd Solondz don't run lukewarm: he's either loved or loathed. His films conjure a view of a world populated with "damaged" misfits; personal despair is spread around like a virus. The characters in Solondz's films are always overwhelmed by bad situations. His first theatrical effort, the pessimistic Welcome to the Dollhouse demonstrates his rebellion against the status quo of uplifting drama: a young 7th grader tormented by her schoolmates and treated poorly at home lacks the resources and support to rise above her situation, and learns to be equally cruel herself. Terrible things happen in Todd Solondz movies. Experience does not lead to insight.

Solondz's 1998 Happiness is guaranteed to repel unwary viewers. A story of internal despair, its three sisters stumble through terrible relationships and cope with sexual abuse. One sister is married to a pedophile, while the boyfriend of another commits suicide. The movie is almost traumatic to watch, as nobody seems capable of making a good decision or of protecting a loved one. Beyond its sexual frankness, what makes the film so disturbing is its tone of universal misery. It's the blackest of black comedies. There are no easy laughs, but one can't escape the awful absurdity in the sadness and malice.

The characters of Happiness return twelve years later in Life During Wartime but are played by an entirely different cast. The sisters have all left New Jersey. The passive, emotionally frail Joy (Shirley Henderson) works with prisoners but would still like to make a living as a songwriter. Her new husband Allen (Michael Kenneth Williams) hasn't kicked his habit of making obscene phone calls, so she decides to take a break from the relationship. Joy is visited by the 'ghost' of Andy (Paul Reubens), a previous boyfriend who killed himself. The phantom Andy begs her to re-start their relationship. Joy eventually travels West to visit her sister Helen (Ally Sheedy), now a wealthy Hollywood screenwriter. Helen is a control freak with anger management issues; she's cut herself off from the family entirely. Although living in luxury, Helen considers herself a victim. She treats joy with patronizing contempt.

Sister Trish (Allison Janney) is desperate to put her shattered family life in order. Her ex-husband Bill (Ciarán Hinds) has been in prison for years on a charge of pedophilia; her younger children have been told that he is dead. Trish may have found the "normal" life she craves in the dull but dependable Harvey Wiener (Michael Lerner), who isn't attractive but shares her Jewish faith. She's sexually attracted to him simply because he fits her profile of normality. The problem is Trish's terrible parenting judgment. Her small daughter is allowed to monitor her own dosage of Klonopin, a drug used to ward off panic attacks. Her young son Timmy (Dylan Riley Snyder) learns that his father is alive. Frightened and confused, Timmy can't get a coherent answer from his mother about what a pedophile does to children. Meanwhile, Bill has been released from prison, and is determined to find out what has become of his former family. Supposedly reformed, he's still haunted by his old cravings. He pops gumdrops to distract himself from his unforgivable obsession.

Carefully written and performed, Life During Wartime presents a despairing mix of defenseless and repellent characters. Victims like Joy and Trish internalize the bad feelings and run for whatever cover they can find. Abuser Helen seethes with inner anger and insists that she is the unrecognized victim. She doesn't care what psychic damage she inflicts on Joy. Writer Solondz expresses his personal contempt for Hollywood by having Helen engage in furious sex with (an unseen) Keanu Reeves. It's as if the woman is trying to stave off the falseness of her life with nightly inoculations of Movie Star. The masochistic Joy practically sleepwalks through her relationships with men. Andy is a manipulative abuser even as a ghost, and the pathetic Allen seeks absolution for his serious sexual maladjustment issues.

The outwardly composed Trish is actually just as damaged as her sisters. She keeps up her appearance but has clearly not recovered from her shattering experience with Bill. Grasping for a meaningful identity, Trish has decorated her house with tasteful religious items, yet is oblivious to the needs of her children. Her tiny daughter is clearly tripping on her medications. At the dinner table, she asks if "baby carrots feel pain". Timmy is at an age where he's curious about sex, and Trish confuses him by sharing her physical feelings toward Harvey. When Timmy becomes frightened about his father, she evades the boy's frantic questions about pedophiles, and simply tells him to scream and run if any adult man touches him. Trish is unaware that she is passing her fears and anxieties to her children.

Director Solondz presents weak people in appalling circumstances, yet Life During Wartime remains compassionate and committed to its characters. The film is a series of intensely uncomfortable encounters that focus on the hurtful traumas that his characters inflict on each other. He also stylizes many scenes, isolating the characters in their psychological prisons and expressing their inner fantasies in dream sequences. Joy walks through the town in her nightgown in the middle of the night. In Bill's sinister mental visions, a phantom child glows white in an Eden-like garden. Bill has only a couple of dialogue scenes, but both are quite striking. In the first he visits his older son Billy (Chris Marquette) in his college dorm. Bill can barely stand to be with him for more than a minute or two -- he seems afraid that something terrible will happen. In the second, Bill is picked up in a hotel bar by Jacqueline (Charlotte Rampling), an attractive but mature malcontent also consumed by inner rage. The bitter Jacqueline reveals she considers herself a monster, something Bill certainly understands. And monsters should never hope for forgiveness.

Life During Wartime's working title was "Forgiveness", a word that sets it apart from the overpoweringly negative Happiness. Some of the characters, Timmy especially, ponder the meaning of "forgive and forget" and debate whether the two really should go together. The interpersonal disasters continue, but Life During Wartime offers at least the possibility of forgiveness and hope, a represented by an image of Timmy carrying a single flower. The film's final title comes from a Talking Heads song, and critics have pointed out several references in the film to life post-9/11, where America itself seems to be hiding from unpleasant realities. Helen, a Jew, has become a pro-Palestinian zealot. The poorly informed Timmy wants to know if a pedophile is a terrorist.

The Criterion Collection's Blu-ray of Life During Wartime is a beautiful, colorful HD encoding of this strange film. The Florida exteriors (filmed in Puerto Rico) are designed to be deceptively placid. Cameraman Edward Lachman appears in an interview to explain the contrast between the sunny pastel exteriors and the weird, unpleasant hues seen in the darker dramatic scenes. In a selected scene commentary Lachman also discusses the RED camera system and the difference between film and video images. Writer-director Solondz particpates in an audio Q&A session. The new making-of docu Actor's Reflections gathers almost all of the main actors to share the challenges of working on Life During Wartime and contains footage from the film's set. A trailer is included, and Criterion's insert booklet contains an essay by David Sterritt, who pegs Solondz as the "lyric poet of the rejected, the dejected and the clueless".

For more information about Life During Wartime, visit The Criterion Collection. To order Life During Wartime, go to TCM Shopping.

by Glenn Erickson
Life During Wartime - Life During Wartime - Todd Solondz's 2010 Sequel To The Controversial 1998 Film Happiness

Life During Wartime - LIFE DURING WARTIME - Todd Solondz's 2010 sequel to the controversial 1998 film Happiness

Viewer opinions on director Todd Solondz don't run lukewarm: he's either loved or loathed. His films conjure a view of a world populated with "damaged" misfits; personal despair is spread around like a virus. The characters in Solondz's films are always overwhelmed by bad situations. His first theatrical effort, the pessimistic Welcome to the Dollhouse demonstrates his rebellion against the status quo of uplifting drama: a young 7th grader tormented by her schoolmates and treated poorly at home lacks the resources and support to rise above her situation, and learns to be equally cruel herself. Terrible things happen in Todd Solondz movies. Experience does not lead to insight. Solondz's 1998 Happiness is guaranteed to repel unwary viewers. A story of internal despair, its three sisters stumble through terrible relationships and cope with sexual abuse. One sister is married to a pedophile, while the boyfriend of another commits suicide. The movie is almost traumatic to watch, as nobody seems capable of making a good decision or of protecting a loved one. Beyond its sexual frankness, what makes the film so disturbing is its tone of universal misery. It's the blackest of black comedies. There are no easy laughs, but one can't escape the awful absurdity in the sadness and malice. The characters of Happiness return twelve years later in Life During Wartime but are played by an entirely different cast. The sisters have all left New Jersey. The passive, emotionally frail Joy (Shirley Henderson) works with prisoners but would still like to make a living as a songwriter. Her new husband Allen (Michael Kenneth Williams) hasn't kicked his habit of making obscene phone calls, so she decides to take a break from the relationship. Joy is visited by the 'ghost' of Andy (Paul Reubens), a previous boyfriend who killed himself. The phantom Andy begs her to re-start their relationship. Joy eventually travels West to visit her sister Helen (Ally Sheedy), now a wealthy Hollywood screenwriter. Helen is a control freak with anger management issues; she's cut herself off from the family entirely. Although living in luxury, Helen considers herself a victim. She treats joy with patronizing contempt. Sister Trish (Allison Janney) is desperate to put her shattered family life in order. Her ex-husband Bill (Ciarán Hinds) has been in prison for years on a charge of pedophilia; her younger children have been told that he is dead. Trish may have found the "normal" life she craves in the dull but dependable Harvey Wiener (Michael Lerner), who isn't attractive but shares her Jewish faith. She's sexually attracted to him simply because he fits her profile of normality. The problem is Trish's terrible parenting judgment. Her small daughter is allowed to monitor her own dosage of Klonopin, a drug used to ward off panic attacks. Her young son Timmy (Dylan Riley Snyder) learns that his father is alive. Frightened and confused, Timmy can't get a coherent answer from his mother about what a pedophile does to children. Meanwhile, Bill has been released from prison, and is determined to find out what has become of his former family. Supposedly reformed, he's still haunted by his old cravings. He pops gumdrops to distract himself from his unforgivable obsession. Carefully written and performed, Life During Wartime presents a despairing mix of defenseless and repellent characters. Victims like Joy and Trish internalize the bad feelings and run for whatever cover they can find. Abuser Helen seethes with inner anger and insists that she is the unrecognized victim. She doesn't care what psychic damage she inflicts on Joy. Writer Solondz expresses his personal contempt for Hollywood by having Helen engage in furious sex with (an unseen) Keanu Reeves. It's as if the woman is trying to stave off the falseness of her life with nightly inoculations of Movie Star. The masochistic Joy practically sleepwalks through her relationships with men. Andy is a manipulative abuser even as a ghost, and the pathetic Allen seeks absolution for his serious sexual maladjustment issues. The outwardly composed Trish is actually just as damaged as her sisters. She keeps up her appearance but has clearly not recovered from her shattering experience with Bill. Grasping for a meaningful identity, Trish has decorated her house with tasteful religious items, yet is oblivious to the needs of her children. Her tiny daughter is clearly tripping on her medications. At the dinner table, she asks if "baby carrots feel pain". Timmy is at an age where he's curious about sex, and Trish confuses him by sharing her physical feelings toward Harvey. When Timmy becomes frightened about his father, she evades the boy's frantic questions about pedophiles, and simply tells him to scream and run if any adult man touches him. Trish is unaware that she is passing her fears and anxieties to her children. Director Solondz presents weak people in appalling circumstances, yet Life During Wartime remains compassionate and committed to its characters. The film is a series of intensely uncomfortable encounters that focus on the hurtful traumas that his characters inflict on each other. He also stylizes many scenes, isolating the characters in their psychological prisons and expressing their inner fantasies in dream sequences. Joy walks through the town in her nightgown in the middle of the night. In Bill's sinister mental visions, a phantom child glows white in an Eden-like garden. Bill has only a couple of dialogue scenes, but both are quite striking. In the first he visits his older son Billy (Chris Marquette) in his college dorm. Bill can barely stand to be with him for more than a minute or two -- he seems afraid that something terrible will happen. In the second, Bill is picked up in a hotel bar by Jacqueline (Charlotte Rampling), an attractive but mature malcontent also consumed by inner rage. The bitter Jacqueline reveals she considers herself a monster, something Bill certainly understands. And monsters should never hope for forgiveness. Life During Wartime's working title was "Forgiveness", a word that sets it apart from the overpoweringly negative Happiness. Some of the characters, Timmy especially, ponder the meaning of "forgive and forget" and debate whether the two really should go together. The interpersonal disasters continue, but Life During Wartime offers at least the possibility of forgiveness and hope, a represented by an image of Timmy carrying a single flower. The film's final title comes from a Talking Heads song, and critics have pointed out several references in the film to life post-9/11, where America itself seems to be hiding from unpleasant realities. Helen, a Jew, has become a pro-Palestinian zealot. The poorly informed Timmy wants to know if a pedophile is a terrorist. The Criterion Collection's Blu-ray of Life During Wartime is a beautiful, colorful HD encoding of this strange film. The Florida exteriors (filmed in Puerto Rico) are designed to be deceptively placid. Cameraman Edward Lachman appears in an interview to explain the contrast between the sunny pastel exteriors and the weird, unpleasant hues seen in the darker dramatic scenes. In a selected scene commentary Lachman also discusses the RED camera system and the difference between film and video images. Writer-director Solondz particpates in an audio Q&A session. The new making-of docu Actor's Reflections gathers almost all of the main actors to share the challenges of working on Life During Wartime and contains footage from the film's set. A trailer is included, and Criterion's insert booklet contains an essay by David Sterritt, who pegs Solondz as the "lyric poet of the rejected, the dejected and the clueless". For more information about Life During Wartime, visit The Criterion Collection. To order Life During Wartime, go to TCM Shopping. by Glenn Erickson

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Winner of the Osella for Best Screenplay at the 2009 Venice International Film Festival.

Released in United States Summer July 23, 2010

Released in United States July 23, 2010

Released in United States on Video July 26, 2011

Released in United States 2009

Released in United States September 2009

Released in United States 2010

Shown at New York Film Festival September 25-October 11, 2009.

Shown at Venice International Film Festival (Competition) September 2-12, 2009.

Shown at Rotterdam International Film Festival (Spectrum) January 27-February 7, 2010.

Released in United States Summer July 23, 2010

Released in United States July 23, 2010

Shown at Seattle International Film Festival (New American Cinema) May 20-June 13, 2010.

Film is part-sequel, part-variation of and companion piece to "Happiness" (USA/1998) and "Welcome to the Dollhouse" (USA/1995) directed by Todd Solondz.

Released in United States on Video July 26, 2011

Released in United States 2009 (Shown at New York Film Festival September 25-October 11, 2009.)

Released in United States September 2009 (Shown at Telluride Film Festival September 4-7, 2009.)

Released in United States September 2009 (Shown at Venice International Film Festival (Competition) September 2-12, 2009.)

Released in United States 2010 (Shown at Rotterdam International Film Festival (Spectrum) January 27-February 7, 2010. )

Released in United States 2010 (Shown at Seattle International Film Festival (New American Cinema) May 20-June 13, 2010.)