Thursday, Dec. 09, 2010

Life During Wartime

A convicted pedophile (Ciarán Hinds) gets out of prison and tries to reconnect with his two sons. His ex-wife (Alison Janney) has fled from New Jersey to Miami to escape the shame. Her sister Joy (Shirley Henderson) is haunted by her old beaus: one (Michael K. Williams) an obscene phone caller who now indulges "just a little — on Sundays"; the other (Paul Reubens) a suicide victim who continues to taunt her from beyond the grave. In his delightfully creepy sequel to 1998's Happiness, albeit with a different cast, writer-director Todd Solondz remains fascinated by the great and small crimes of which humans are capable and touched by their attempts to rationalize or conquer them. Nobody dreams up characters who are simultaneously so sad and so funny, so quick to wound, so eager to forgive. And because he portrays them with such boldness and acuity — daring the viewer to laugh at them and, a bigger challenge, to find some residue of beauty in the beasts — he is the best argument for why we need indie movies.