THE LAND OF STEADY HABITS
(director/writer: Nicole Holofcener; screenwriter: based on the 2014 novel by Ted Thompson; cinematographer: Alar Kivilo; editor: Robert Frazen; music: Marcelo Zarvos; cast: Ben Mendelsohn (Anders Harris), Charlie Tahan(Charlie), Thomas Mann (Preston Harris ), Edie Falco (Helene Harris), Natalie Gold (Dana), Connie Britton (Barbara), Michael Gaston (Mitchell Ashford), Bill Camp (Donny O’Connell), Elizabeth Marvel (Sophie AShford), Josh Pais (Larry Eastwood), Victor Slezak (Wes Thompson), Peter Brensinger (AsianMan); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Anthony Bregman, Stefanie Azpiazu, Nicole Holofcener; Netflix; 2018)
“The story line never had much urgency and the life lessons were dished out as easy as choosing bath towels.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A perturbing slice of life drama on suburban angst and parenting by writer and director Nicole Holofcener (“Enough Said”/”Friends With Money”), that’s based on the 2014 novel by Ted Thompson. It’s the first film not based on one of her original stories and the first where the lead is a man. Ms. Holofcener has been for obvious reasons, after detailing the neuroses in her lead women with a caustic humor, made to appear for many the female counterpart of Woody Allen. The title is a nickname for the exclusive Westport community and its habit of electing the same people to public office.The handsome Anders Hill (Ben Mendelsohn, Aussie actor) is a prosperous middle-aged man living in the upscale NYC commuting suburb of Westport, Connecticut. The bored man of privilege wants a change of life and to rebel against his social setting, as he recently divorced his wife Helene (Edie Falco) and took an early retirement from his Wall Street job in finance. His wish is to say farewell to the rat race and a marriage that’s no longer exciting. The self-pitying Anders now chooses to live comfortably in an undistinguished Manhattan condo that he’s taken time to smartly fix up for the holidays. He still feels confused, even after he picks up a divorced mature woman (Connie Britton) during an afternoon spent at a Bed Bath & Beyond and when he takes her home has trouble getting it up. But they still continue the relationship despite the drawbacks. The poor/rich guy is just not a happy camper. It’s Christmas time and his gift to himself of liberation leaves him just as flustered as before. To get a chance at redemption, Anders tries to reunite with his estranged rejecting downtrodden delivery boy slacker 27-year-old son Preston (Thomas Mann), still living with mom. When that fails, he turns to the doper teen son of his old friends, Charlie (Charlie Tahan), he meets again at a backyard Christmas party. Charlie lays on Anders some weed in a bong laced with angel dust. But Charlie is the one who passes out from an overdose and is taken to the hospital, and the odd couple friend each other. Charlie shows his trust by asking Anders to mind his pet turtle. This unlikely relationship acts to show how far down the ladder Anders has fallen. Helene, from the divorce agreement, gets the majestic house, where she plans to live with her new Wall Street man (Bill Camp). Only problem is that for the last six months Anders has not paid the mortgage. But Anders has found a purpose to live at last, and seeks to take back the house and his life that he so willingly gave up. The story line never had much urgency and the life lessons were dished out as easy as choosing bath towels. It’s not a film that I want to praise more than saying the acting was quite good and these white folks sure know how to act like privileged white folks. But it lacks the depth and wit of the director’s other films, and seems too much like your typical mid-life crisis drama but this time only for the white elites.
REVIEWED ON 12/1/2018 GRADE: B- https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/