The Land of Steady Habits (2018)

NICOLE HOLOFCENER

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.  USA, 2018.  .  Screenplay by , based on the novel by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  Toronto International Film Festival 2018.

Ben Mendelsohn in The Land of Steady Habits.

is enjoying life in early retirement, moving into his new house after having broken up with wife because he needed “more space”.  His voyage of rediscovery turns out to be an expensive new house and banal one night stands with women he picks up while shopping for decorations, his despondency with the state of things reflected in his increasingly poor performance in bed.  He doesn’t live far from Falco or their troubled son, still shows up at family Christmas parties where he smokes pot with teenagers and doesn’t realize that he keeps going back to the places he said he couldn’t get away from fast enough; Falco, in response, tries to make it clear that her frustration with him is the fact that he won’t let her give him the space he said he wanted so badly.  The contradictions of the situation reach a crisis point in the film’s climax with a severe turn of the plot in yet another intelligent film from Nicole Holofcener who has, as always, created an incisive look at people whose lives are in flux, sympathetic to Mendelsohn’s confusion while still frank about his bad choices.  It’s a slimmer experience than her best films, you don’t feel her getting into the weeds of who these people are the way she does in films like Lovely and Amazing or Enough Said despite the excellent performances.  Mendelsohn is cast against his popular psychotic brand to wonderful effect, but the other actors play well within their types (will ever be happy?), and between that and the film’s climax playing a bit too soft, it’s not a very rich experience.

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