Plot via Sundance:
Lucy seeks enlightenment. The former child actress makes a pilgrimage to join her guru, Elon Bello (Ben Whishaw), for a silent retreat at a beautiful mountain resort with a Tesla-crammed parking lot. Before she shuts off her phone to the world, Lucy reaches out to her daughter, Dylan — a stunt person training for a dangerous fight scene — to interrupt her concentration and announce that she will be unavailable and out of range, and that she is very worried about her, and that she might extend her stay. It is co-dependent, bad behavior. When a young model/DJ/influencer at the retreat is paired up with Lucy to do a mother/daughter role-playing exercise, hellfire stokes Lucy’s bad behavior to an astonishing low.
Actress Alice Englert feature debut Bad Behaviour is, at times misguided, but still honest mix of uneven characterizations, off pitch black comedy and emo drama.
The story is split into two halves.
The first involves former child actor Lucy (Jennifer Connelly) embarking on a semi-silent retreat in the United States. There is a lot of bad therapy and pretentious role play striving towards obvious insights.
The second, involves a parallel subplot focusing on Lucy’s estranged daughter, Dylan ( Alice Englert), back in New Zealand. She’s a stunt performer who subjects herself to dangerous, injury-inducing falls. When she hears about her mom’s misadventures, Dylan reunites with Lucy, and hence the second half begins, one that primarily pivots around the two leads
Englert’s approach is very one note- all closeups with a lot of over emotion and “acting” intensity. It’s a mixed bag as far as the emotional results. I’ve never seen Jennifer Connelly this bad for half a movie and I hope never to see it again. I’ll take the second half Connelly any day.
I never could figure out whether Englert wanted to satirize her characters or punish them. The parts that feel like satire- celebrity culture pretenders, pseudo-spirituality believers and nods to what it means to be a modern woman fall flat.
What does work is the exploration of the mother and daughter relationship in Bad Behaviour second half. That is where the real emotion with all the bad and good behavior begins. Too bad it took too long to get in its right place.
By the end Englert works through her mistakes and gets the relationship that counts, the mother-daughter one, in its proper love-hate place and space.
Bad Behaviour gets a could do better but shows talent grade of B, or 3 out of 5.
CAMERON TULILOA MCARTHUR
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