Wednesday, 19 December 2018

The Land Of Steady Habits (2018) - Movie Review, this certainly makes for a change of pace. Ben Mendelsohn, an actor I’ve covered numerous times before on here depicting some of the worst kinds of people imaginable, has taken a step into mid-life crisis dramedy. Not gonna lie, after seeing him in Una, I don’t think it’s even possible to see Mendelsohn on-screen without a rolling chill down the spine.

But it’s because of these very situations that typecasting is understood as such a negative practice, and it’s not like anyone really wants to be most associated with the power-hungry, callous and fucking despicable characters Mendelsohn is mainly known for these days. So, really, seeing him in a different setting should turn out to be a good thing, especially since it seems to be a really damn good fit for him.

As Anders, the surly sad sack struggling to get his life together after a messy divorce, Mendelsohn earns a lot of laughs and a lot of sympathy. He has that Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa energy to him, where the fact that he is doing rather questionable things hits schadenfreude without being outwardly hateful. If anything, because we spend a lot of time in the character’s shoes, his suburban plight is easy to empathise with.

All the little moments of embarrassment, from a stoned encounter with his ex-wife to giving the gift of a stolen erotic art book, give a depiction of a man’s life that feels real, awkwardness and all. It’s what a lot of indie drama/comedies aim for, but writer/director Nicole Holofcener pulls it off better than most.

What makes Anders’ slow growth as a person, to the point where it can be argued that it has about as much growth as you’d find in a person on this side of the screen, so fascinating is that it serves as a great springboard for the film’s bigger points regarding parenthood and personal responsibility. It takes a rather defeatist tone in regards to being a parent, where all the adults are stumbling through life and haven’t really given their kids the best example to work with. The same kind of hypocrisy that leads to the “don’t do as I do, do as I say” mentality that usually doesn’t end well either.

But while defeatist, it feels a lot more realistic than it does tragic in an artificial sense. The characters we see do fuck up, in varyingly bad ways, but they’re very understandable and even relatable fuck ups, the kind a general audience could see themselves doing. It’s an admission that while it’s perfectly natural (and arguably necessary) to take pity on those who aren’t doing so well at life, it’s important to remember that most of us aren’t doing much better.

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