Todd Solondz was just finishing up his oatmeal when we were introduced on July 21, 2010. With a such a wholesome and solid breakfast under his belt, he was more than ready to talk about LIFE DURING WARTIME, a film that uses the idiom of wholesomeness and savagely juxtaposes it with lives rife with anguish, torment, and absurd comedy.
Solondz, who has made a career out of making audiences laugh when they least expect it at things that are not inherently funny, is a man who chooses his words carefully before speaking. As a result, his discussion of why he doesn’t try to please everyone, the reasons for revisiting characters from his previous films with new actors, and why Paris Hilton isn’t making a cameo in LIFE DURING WARTIME had an almost professorial tone, though certainly not a pedantic one. When he explains why gumdrops are a gift, it’s a life lesson for filmmakers and civilians alike.
LIFE DURING WARTIME is a poignant comedy that revisits characters from his previous films HAPPINESS and PALINDROMES with new actors and a time warp when it comes to how they have or haven’t aged. Once again, Solondz deals with ideas and situations that would make other filmmakers run away in terror, and presents them with a complexity that challenges conventional wisdom about easy answers. In this case, the idea of forgive and forget, an idea that haunts the characters of LIFE IN WARTIME. It’s ten years in cinematic time since the events of HAPPINESS, and the lives of sisters Joy, Trish, and Helen haven’t gotten any less complicated since Trish’s husband was sent to prison for pedophilia, leaving her with three children to whom she has told various stories about what happened. Joy’s husband, now a black ex-con, hasn’t quite gotten over his addiction to making obscene phone calls, and Helen, now a successful screenwriter hasn’t gotten over her own emotional issues, even while in the embrace of Keanu Reeves. The film co-stars Shirley Henderson, Allison Janney, Ciaran Hinds, Ally Sheedy, Paul Rubens, Michael Kenneth Williams, Renee Taylor, Michael Lerner, Chris Marquette, Rich Pecci, Charlotte Rampling as the monster, and in his feature film debut, Dylan Riley Snider as Timmy, the bar-mitzvah boy.