Life During Wartime

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Todd Solondz, the provocateur behind Welcome to the Dollhouse and Palindromes, is back with his most sincere, uncynical effort—still very much a black comedy, but somehow softer. Life During Wartime, a sequel to Solondz’s 1998 commercial breakthrough, Happiness, stars a completely different cast of actors, all of them older but still haunted by the memories of a pedophilic patriarch. Bill Maplewood (here played by Munich’s intense Ciarn Hinds) is released from jail and heads south to a harshly bright Florida to look up his unknowing family. Meanwhile, little Timmy is on the cusp of his bar mitzvah and hopes to take a more adult role in things. (The kid’s got terrible timing). Not everything in the film works, particularly its strain of knee-jerk Hebraic hermeticism. But Solondz has found his way to a handful of beautifully sympathetic performances—including a masterpiece of a passive-aggressive rant from Ally Sheedy that brings down the house. Saturday, Oct 10 at 9pm—Joshua Rothkopf

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New York Film Festival 2009

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