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Life During Wartime

Dysfunctional suburbia

Three Florida sisters with very different lives, all seeking love. Helen is a slyly malevolent, unreachable, self-centred writer who earns big bucks. Trish has two kids, a paedophile ex-husband in prison, and a new boyfriend who shares her love for Israel. Joy writes songs, plays the guitar and has suicidally-inclined dead boyfriends who haunt her.

Through them and their families, and their would-be lovers and their families, Solondz drolly constructs an entertaining picture of dysfunctional suburbia. Here everyone needs somebody, but no-one really sees beyond herself or himself and the paedophile father is only at the behavioural extreme of infantile self-absorption.

These characters, now played by other actors, first appeared in Solondz’s 1998 feature, Happiness, but this is the better film. In the honesty of younger people not playing happy families, there now seems to be hope – the questioning 13-year-old Bar Mitzvah boy, the student son and his friends playing truth games, and the autistic adult son of the Friend of Israel. Deadpan, insightful, impeccably made – a bleak delight.


New Internationalist issue 432 magazine cover This article is from the May 2010 issue of New Internationalist.
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