THE LAND OF STEADY HABITS
Reviewed for Shockya.com by: Harvey Karten
Director: Nicole Holofcener
Screenplay by: Nicole Holofcener
Cast: Ben Mendelsohn, Edie Falco, Thomas Mann, Bill Camp, Elizabeth Marvel, Connie Britton
Screened at: Critics’ DVD, NYC, 12/5/18
Opens: September 14, 2018 and now promoted for year-end awards
Though billed as a comedy, “The Land of Steady Habits” has comic touches but is a serious and deep look at the nature of family, work, and parenting. As directed by Nicole Holofcener, whose “Please Give” is a look at a husband and wife’s conflicts with the grand kids of the next door neighbor, sticks to what she knows best. This film is clearly within Holofcener’s prime motif.
As the film opens, Anders Harris (Ben Mendelsohn) is at a big box store in Connecticut, possibly Bed, Bath and Beyond, where he looks with confusion and paralysis at a stack of towels a mile high. He asks a woman for information about an object he finds and winds up with an almost instant sexual liaison. Later he will have a quick conference with another woman, and same thing happens, though Anders is unable to get a lasting erection. “I think it’s out” says his partner, giving Anders the opportunity for the usual retort “This never happened to me before, but it’s not your fault.” “I never thought it was,” responds the woman.
Anders’ problem is that now retired with nothing meaningful to do, he broke up with his wife, Helene (Edie Falco) thinking that he would restore his sense of adventure. He realizes that he made a mistake and is now floundering around, moving into a place in the same Connecticut suburb—his choice determined by his need to stalk the wife that he now misses. To top his frustration, Helene has taken on a rich boyfriend, Donnie (Bill Camp) with plans to marry. In a fit of good will, Anders has deeded his house over to his ex-wife, which makes one wonder whether he has lost his bond with her in any significant way.
He spends considerable time with his son Preston (Thomas Mann) and the lad’s friend Charlie (Charlie Tahan), both of whom are disturbed. Preston has been in rehab and still uses PCP while Charlie is rootless, delivering liquor to fellow suburbanites.
“The Land of Steady Habits” is another in the group of films satirizing suburbia—the concentration on money and shopping, the dull parties, and the whole shebang from which Anders had retired in the first place. His job in finance for him entails monstrous greed (“for what”? for a big house, trips to the Caribbean?” But he has nothing with which to replace his energy.
With a stunning principal performance from Ben Mendelsohn, an Everyman to which many a fellow can relate, “The Land of Steady Habits” is one of recent years’ best looks at the existential despair of suburban people of both genders and ages.
Story – A-
Acting – A-
Technical – B+
Overall – B+