Off-Ramp | Off-Ramp host John Rabe and contributors share thoughts on arts, culture, and life in L.A.

Recommendation for this week: Life During Wartime

Kevin Ferguson, Off-Ramp producer, writes: I saw Life During Wartime this past weekend. I'm by no means a fan of Todd Solondz's work. Welcome to the Dollhouse tried my patience, Happiness seemed uncomfrotable for it's own sake, and I can't remember what happened in Storytelling. I wouldn't have even considered seeing Life During Wartime were it not for the Q and A we aired this past weekend: Cinefamily's Hadrian Belove engaged Solondz and Paul Reubens (who starred in the film) in a fascinating, funny and (yes) mature discussion that touched on topics like sex, directors' philosophies, and Puerto Rico.

So my fiancee and I went to see Life During Wartime on Saturday, expecting a queasy rehashing of Happiness' hyper-offensive shock-opera trope. Instead, we saw a tragic, human and tasteful (tasteful!) comedy. The film is for all intents and purposess a sequel to Happiness (recast in its entireity from the ground up), but uses the film's mature content (sexual deviancy, pedophilia, suicide) in a way to talk about very universal themes: forgiveness, loss, adulthood, even U.S. foreign policy. The characters are more believably human (Reubens especially so, despite his character being deceased) and while their problems are hopefully nothing like yours or mines, we share their feelings. And most importantly, it's funny. There's a scene where a main character—just released from jail—meets and eventually sleeps with an aggressive older woman in a Florida hotel. Their dialogue is almost film-noir in delivery. Something like: "What are you here for? Work? Do you like your job?" she asks. "It pays the bills," he replies. "Good," she says. "We don't have to talk about it, then." Life During Wartime is playing at a few of the Laemmle theaters around LA, when we went Saturday night the theater was sparsely populated, tragically.