Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Movie Review (Sundance 2023): ‘Bad Behaviour’ is a Waste of Talent

Director: Alice Englert

Writer: Alice Englert

Stars: Jennifer Connelly, Ben Whishaw, Alice Englert

Synopsis: The film is a dark comedy about Lucy, a former child actress who seeks enlightenment at a retreat led by spiritual leader Elon  while she also navigates the close yet turbulent relationship with her stunt performer daughter, Dylan.

Occasionally – or even often, to be completely honest – I blindly jump into movies exclusively due to the cast listing or the leading actor/actress. Bad Behaviour is one of those films for me. Jennifer Connelly holds that star factor that, independent of the type of story she gets herself into, I’m in. That said, I genuinely didn’t know anything about Alice Englert’s feature directorial debut. After sitting through little less than two hours of growing frustration, I wish I knew the protagonists would be such terrible, despicable, toxic human beings.

Obviously, Bad Behaviour wants to make a point by following uninteresting, stressful characters that seem to destroy any source of joy in their path. The issues inherent are just too many for viewers to actually care about it. From the extremely unbalanced tone to the messy narrative structure, Englert isn’t able to focus her thoughts, falling off a precipice into dull, repetitive scenes lacking true sentiment. There’s even a fully animated sequence that comes out of nowhere – like many other moments – which pushes the viewers further away from the story instead of reeling them in.

Motherhood will never cease to be a topic worthy of in-depth study. More specifically, mother-daughter relationships can be incredibly complex, just like any other parent-child bond. All families share different ways of living. From making mistakes to learning from them, from dealing with trauma to avoiding it, the presence and support from our closest family members is vital for moving forward in a healthy manner. There are clear attempts at exploring why the mother, Lucy, and the daughter, Dylan, feel so separated from each other. I kept waiting for the momentum to shift… and it did. It’s just a pity that this only occurs midway through the final act of Bad Behaviour.

Until then, it’s a never-ending sequence of nonsensical displays of hateful dialogue and unreasonable actions. One has to endure characters constantly hurting others, whether it’s verbally or physically, and most of the time, it feels miserably hollow. It’s one of those movies that survives due to the dedicated performances from the cast, but even concerning this aspect, it’s a shame that such a brilliant actor like Ben Whishaw is so wasted.

Nevertheless, Connelly warrants all the praise. An all-in, powerful performance from an actress that didn’t deserve to lead such a disappointing flick. In the midst of all the confusion, the viewers can still rejoice at the fact that they’re witnessing a phenomenal actress demonstrating all of her talent and commitment to a role. Englert is also pretty good, much better than in exploring the mother-daughter theme.

A final note: I’m unaware of how much of a personal project this is or even if it’s personal at all. Still, Bad Behaviour is one of those films I just couldn’t connect with in any shape or form. There’s a layer of exaggeration and overdramatization that makes it all feel fictional and less grounded. And that, to me, turns into a massive obstacle to overcome. I hope others can feel the opposite.

Grade: D+



Manuel São Bento
Manuel São Bentohttps://www.msbreviews.com/
I'm a Portuguese critic based in Sweden with a tremendous passion for cinema, television, and the art of filmmaking. I try to offer an unbiased perspective from someone who has stopped watching trailers since 2017. As years went by, I was able to develop my voice within the community and cover major festivals. Co-host of a weekly film podcast, R&M: A Conversation on Cinema. Outlets: Firstshowing, InSession Film, That Shelf, Filmhounds Magazine, Echo Boomer (PT), Magazine.HD (PT). Proud member of associations such as GFCA (Global Film Critics Association), IFSC (International Film Society Critics), and OFTA (Online Film & Television Association). You can find me across social media through @msbreviews. Portfolio: https://linktr.ee/msbreviews

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