Life During Wartime is a spiritual sequel of sorts to writer/director Todd Solondz’s amazing 1998 film Happiness, and is basically a contrived and hollow replicant of that film. The characters, dialogue, and style are all pretty much the same, but this time it all feels distant and unnecessary. In Happiness, Solondz treated all his wonderfully twisted, but natural, characters with empathy and compassion, but that’s not the case in this film. Not only does everything seem emotionally restrained, but Solondz actually seems to show disdain for his characters, who all have little depth this time around (another major difference from Happiness). It’s as if Solondz is just going through the motions, with no inspiration whatsoever. Even the “shock value” is forced.
The upside is the cast. It’s another ensemble, and every member is near-perfect: Shirley Henderson, Michael Williams, Allison Janney, Ciaran Hinds, Paul Reubens, and Dylan Riley Snyder. It’s a great actors’ showcase but not much else. This film has nothing to say or offer that Happiness didn’t.