Must-See Cinema! See the original to get a deeper appreciation for Life During Wartime.

Happiness poster artThis scandalous American independent film, written and directed by Todd Solondz, is, of course, about misery. The characters try to make connections and wind up nowhere; they love the wrong person, the forbidden person; they degrade themselves, destroy other people. Each scene offers one or another aspect of the alleged anxiety and terror lurking beneath the respectable surface of middle-class life. “A retired couple in their sixties (Ben Gazzara and Louise Lasser) have nothing left to say to one another. One of their daughters, Joy (Jane Adams), a scared, talentless girl, can’t hold a job or a man. Her older sibling Helen (Lara Flynn Boyle), the slinky writer, is a parody of chic, attitudinizing success. The other sister, Trish, played by the gurgling Cynthia Stevenson, lives happily as an apple-pie-fascist mom, married to what seems to be a solid husband and dad – Bill (Dylan Baker). Bill lusts after little boys, perhaps even after his own little boy.

The American suburbs are a fairly easy target by now, but Solondz subverts what has already been subverted. Happiness is a brilliant, disturbing, but unstable and half-crazy piece of work. 

– David Denby, New York Magazine

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