ARCHIVE REVIEW: Life During Wartime

Life During Wartime
Directed by: Todd Solondz
Written by: Todd Solondz (screenplay)
Starring: Shirley Henderson, Allison Janney, Dylan Riley Snyder, and Michael Lerner

Todd Solondz’s Life During Wartime is not as vulgar as his 1998 film Happiness, though this will be little consolation to anyone who sees it.  Embedded in this painfully funny movie are unspeakably awful events, and part of what gives the movie its edge and its comedy is how callously these characters seem to treat them.

Solondz has made a sequel to Happiness in his own way.  The characters are the same, though all the actors are different.   You will be able to understand this movie without seeing its predecessor.  We’re revisiting these people as if we were dropping in on a random episode of Seinfeld; if you’re familiar with the characters you’ll get more out of it.

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REVIEW: The Help

The Help
Directed by: Tate Taylor
Written by: Tate Taylor (screenplay), Kathryn Stockett (novel)
Starring: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, and Bryce Dallas Howard

More than anything- its Civil Rights message, its 60s send-back, its self-awareness of both- Tate Taylor’s film adaptation of The Help is more proof that female-driven movies outside the rom-com purgatory are infiltrating the mainstream.   That is the edgiest thing about it by far. As many critics have already remarked, it is a fairly safe movie.  It tackles racism in Jackson, Mississippi in the time period surrounding the assassination of Medgar Evers and John F. Kennedy.

Like AMC’s Mad Men, it dresses its stars (or the white ones at least) in irresistibly colorful dresses and tortures their hair into ridiculously smoothed-out contortions.  Unlike that show, it is aware of when it takes place.  This script, written by the director Tate Taylor, anticipates everything it’s going to throw at you.

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