In this sprawling, perversely funny character study set in New Jersey, timid, pathologically optimistic Joy (Adams) copes with an endless chain of uninterrupted hostilities. Her self-obsessed poet sister, Helen (Flynn Boyle), meanwhile, endures horrifically obscene phone calls from her psychotic neighbor, Allen (Hoffman). And another sister, smug, well-adjusted Trish (Stevenson) finds her picture-perfect suburban life annihilated when she learns her psychiatrist husband Bill (Baker) is guilty of the worst crime imaginable.
Why we love it
Dark, twisted, and in-your-face, Solondz's poisonous examination of love, complacency, and compassion (or lack of it) might seem unredeemably low if it weren't so sickeningly honest, and even hilarious at times. Hoffman is particularly repulsive – brilliantly so – as Allen, an unkempt, antisocial shut-in who compulsively plays with himself and confesses his sick fantasies to Baker's equally perverted Bill, a shrink with pedophilic urges who Solondz somehow makes pitiable in a harrowing, heartbreaking scene with his son. Also outstanding is Adams, a shrinking violet incapable of malice and always at the butt end of petty brutalities. Behind every façade of normality, Solondz seems to be saying, lurk the dark impulses that actually define who we are – or could be. Definitely not for the squeamish or those easily offended.