Metascore
69

Generally favorable reviews - based on 30 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 22 out of 30
  2. Negative: 1 out of 30
  1. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    100
    His films will never be mainstream fare; audiences who wander into the theater may well find them derisive, needlessly shocking, perhaps unforgivable. But I'd call them, and especially Life During Wartime, unforgettable.
  2. What Solondz does so well is create unthinkable moments in a "Leave It to Beaver" world, where unmentionables are aired in the most innocuous ways to startling effect. In Life During Wartime, he's done just that, creating a relationship agitprop that pops and sizzles; just be careful not to get burned.
  3. 90
    It is all perfectly dreadful and at times appallingly funny. Mr. Solondz winds thin tendrils of narrative around the dinner-table conversations, and allows everyone a chance to be earnestly foolish, unguardedly selfish and also, almost by accident, cruelly honest.
  4. 85
    Jagged and gentle, shocking and sweet, Life During Wartime finds the King of Cringe more concerned than usual about forgiveness: who deserves it, and who is capable of bestowing it. True to form, though, he's not telling.
  5. In a staring contest with his audience, Solondz never blinks. He picks and picks at the themes that consume him, and he doesn't care who stays and who leaves. Me, I'm rapt.
  6. Reviewed by: Deborah Young
    80
    A heady mix of deadpan humor that boldly uses such topics as pedophilia, race and terrorism to plead the need for forgiveness at a personal and national level.
  7. Life During Wartime slices deeply into its characters' weaknesses.
  8. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    80
    In revisiting his darkly comic 1998 ensembler "Happiness," Todd Solondz may have made his best film with Life During Wartime.
  9. The common problem of Solondz's characters is an inability to see the world in shades of grey, which is fitting in a film where color-garish, boring or just plain ugly-is so important, and the actors are working off palettes of such extreme emotions. A few of them-notably Ms. Rampling, Mr. Hinds and Ms. Sheedy-are as good here as they've ever been.
  10. 80
    Solondz will never be meek and mild, and there are spasms of shame and awkwardness here that will make even devoted viewers wince as sharply as ever. But the movie, his best to date, and a sequel of sorts to "Happiness," feels drenched in an unfamiliar sadness.
  11. 75
    Dark to a specific point of dullness or even opacity, Solondz requires patience, as always, but indulgence as well. He relies on your remembrance of his other films and characters but also on your willingness to overlook his redeployment of tactics that range from puerile to mildly -- and somehow always self-skeptically -- profound.
  12. 75
    While it obviously isn't for all tastes, this is a big, thematically rich step forward -- mostly it's about tolerance and forgiveness -- from the empty provocation of Solondz's "Storytelling" and "Palindromes." About time.
  13. Thanks to the evocative cinematography of Ed Lachman, it is bathed in a celestial light that cannot penetrate the existential darkness of its characters.
  14. Charlotte Rampling goes for broke as a sexually rapacious older woman. So does Ally Sheedy as a rich woman. They're memorable, and yet equally satisfying is Ciaran Hinds' sadness and restraint as a paroled sex offender with deviancy in the blood.
  15. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    75
    Too many of the sequences are two-character dialogues that take place in restaurants; after a while, the film starts to resemble sketch existentialism.
  16. Todd Solondz isn't for everyone, maybe not even most people...he's a comic filmmaker whose idea of entertainment is shredding chum into a shark tank.
  17. Solondz conjures a world that's rotting away from the inside, in which only the children--freckle-faced Dylan Riley Snyder and Emma Hinz--weep over the loss of moral authority. This might be some kind of goddamned masterpiece, but I'm not sure I want to watch it again to say for sure.
  18. 70
    Todd Solondz is back. Life During Wartime shows the misanthropic moralizer as confounding and trigger-happy as ever, his big clown thumb poised over a garish assortment of hot buttons--race, suicide, autism, sexual misery, self-hatred, Israel, and, his old favorite, pedophilia.
  19. 67
    Call it the aesthetic of un-Happiness.
  20. A little of Solondz's deadpan creepiness goes a long way with me. Life During Wartime is about how people are not what they seem to be, but most of its characters aren't rich enough to exhibit single, let alone double, lives.
  21. 63
    There's always rationing in wartime. What's rationed in Todd Solondz's Life During Wartime are feelings of hope, kindness and optimism.
  22. There are audiences for movies that amuse us, and arouse us, and scare us, but the career of Todd Solondz ("Storytelling") raises the question: Is there an audience for movies that make us feel icky?
  23. 60
    While this film has the trademark Solondz black comedy, it does not probe into deeper emotions as successfully as "Happiness" did.
  24. 58
    The biggest problems are Solondz's themes of forgiveness and glib, misplaced patriotism.
  25. 58
    "Happiness" was, in its own dry, muted way, a howl of fatalistic despair discernible to anyone who's ever felt life had run out of cruel tricks to play. Life During Wartime is less a reprise of that howl than its echo.
  26. 50
    Relies on uncomfortable black humor and moments of sincere drama to involve viewers. But everything is encased in artifice and the movie becomes a chore to take in.
  27. 50
    Solondz has grown so possessive of his characters, in fact, that he's begun to guard them jealously from any one actor.
  28. You will find a few glimmers of humanity in Todd Solondz' latest exercise in acerbic observation. But Solondz continues to mistake judgment for honesty, and empathy for weakness.
  29. Reviewed by: Andrew Male
    40
    Possibly a brave and interesting triumph for its director, but definitely a cold-eyed heartless bore for his audience.
  30. 0
    What some critics praise as astute and compelling, I find juvenile and fraught with hysteria. There's no arc here, no real pathos, and the direction is like watching snow melt on the side of a road.

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