I vividly recall the year Todd Solondz’s Happiness debuted at the Telluride Film Festival. His deadpan treatment of such sensitive subjects as pederasty and masturbation polarized the assembled moviegoers; some walked out in disgust, others stayed and were full of praise. Only a filmmaker as iconoclastic as Solondz would create a sequel twelve years later—and recast all the leading characters. Many of his films in that intervening period have been disappointing and downright strange, but Life During Wartime is exceptional…just as good as Happiness, and possibly even better.
Once again, the movie opens on a note of black comedy, as we meet the mousy character with awful taste in men played by Shirley Henderson (one of cinema’s most gifted chameleons, best known to mass audiences as—
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