Saturday, September 25, 2010

Let's not go to the movies

A recent interview with the AV Club got me all intrigued about Todd Solondz's newest film, Life During Wartime. He had such interesting things to say about actors and the film-making process. And then I was excited that it was coming to Real Art Ways, because there just haven't been many movies to get excited about during 2010.

Life During Wartime is ostensibly a sequel to Happiness - you remember that beloved indie firecracker about the mild-mannered child rapist dad and the motley crew of hot messes and their associates he married into? The movie with the title that was soooo ironic because the happiest thing was the little boy's triumph at the end in rubbing one out? Life During Wartime catches up with these characters a decade later and with the weird twist that all the roles have been recast with different actors.

We had hoped to re-watch Happiness in advance of screening Life, but didn't manage to procure a copy. But Solondz said this movie would stand on it's own, so we went at it cold. DH had never even seen Happiness, and I haven't seen it in years. We were both pretty lost from the get-go, and the recasting stunt only muddies things more. I was able to pipe in "Oh, this must be the family... the dad got caught raping kids and went to prison, that's what's going on here." Apparently mom told her younger kids their father died, and now she's trying to move on with a new man in a new state.

This could be an intriguing premise if Solondz made any effort to portray people as people are and really explore what this family might act like. But his characters are broad indie cinema caricatures who just exist to have extremely awkward conversations, like the over-the-top moment where mom tells little Timmy that she knows she's in love because she got wet all over when he touched her elbow... and then she dried herself off with a paper towel. Oh and by the way, never let a man touch you. Or when her young daughter is looking for her klonopin to take before "karaoke class" (WTF?!) and she advises her to just take half a Wellbutrin ("they're right next to my percocets, oh just bring me the whole cabinet!"). Get it, these people are fucked up?

Life doesn't hold up very well either as sequel or stand-alone. We got a couple of chuckles out of scenes of children saying appalling things (we hate children); Ally Sheedy (in the Lara Flynne Boyle role) having loud off-camera sex with "Keanu" is kind of funny; and Paul Reubens is welcome to drop by whatever indie drama he feels like. Mostly we appreciated scenes of college-age Billy's bedrooms at home and at school littered with hipster/intellectual signifiers like a copy of The Naked Lunch and posters for Spoon and Neutral Milk Hotel.

If you're a Solondz completist, you'll check this out anyway. You can see it this week at RAW. If you're not uncomfortable enough after that, go see I'm Still Here or whatever.

No comments:

Post a Comment