Indulgence can not only be fun, but glorious, and the film industry itself would hardly exist without it. But self-indulgence disguised as self-punishment is the worst, particularly from white women who are cursed with a lack of self-awareness.
Bad Behaviour starts off on exactly the wrong foot, with a voice proclaiming over New Agey music, “The mind does anything to stay in power.” Anything that asks you to surrender your mind doesn’t bode well for whatever is being sold, and there’s a sense that despite the self-conscious tone of its faux enlightenment proclamation, audiences are in for a bad trip.
Reliably enough, Lucy (Jennifer Connelly), a former child actress, soon proves that she is a deeply toxic woman who is still struggling to reconcile her mommy issues and the strained relationship she has with her own daughter Dylan, played by Alice Englert, who is making her feature debut as a writer and director.
Fighting a Future
Lucy is also trying to get better, heading to an enlightenment retreat run by a guru named… Elon Bello (Ben Whishaw), a cry for help in itself. When a young model/DJ/influencer named Beverly joins the retreat, it triggers Lucy in all the wrong ways, with people responding far more to Beverly’s photogenic cache rather than Lucy’s vulnerability, and Lucy falls back into the very patterns she has been trying to avoid, verbally at first, then physically in a shocking act of violence.
By this time it’s clear that Dylan has her own struggles, and later on the reveal that her work as a stunt person provides her the very outlet to indulge her own issues will hardly be a shock. And since they involve sex and role play, her accidental injury on a film set feels like punishment doled out accordingly.
When mother and daughter reunite for the film’s latter half, things get even less interesting. A healthy dynamic between these two would hardly be a possibility, and there’s plenty of history for audiences to pick and choose just which one they’ll be able to see themselves in, with commentary galore as to how much agency we really have in our determination to not turn into our parents.
What’s really difficult to count is how many ways women are done a disservice by Bad Behaviour. Since the only ones the movie bestows with any kind of attention and exploration are white and well-off, they’re meant to be reflections of each other, but what they actually are is interchangeable.
Even one of the most iconic female-centric shows of all time, which broke barriers with its equally iconic characters and its LGBTQ storylines, is reduced to little more than anecdote about Lucy’s teen years playing a warrior princess in a show called Flora the Fierce, which gave her financial stability and led to her struggle with anorexia.
Englert knows just enough about what she’s talking about to keep things moving along at least, with a famous mom of her own in acclaimed filmmaker Jane Campion, and enough skilled actors to make some of the runtime teetering precariously on the side of bearable. She also shows enough promise as a director (hardly a surprise really) to provide a glimmer of hope that a follow up won’t be quite so set on congratulating itself for making women unlikeable that there’ll actually be some coherence.
Time and again the film industry has proved how willing it is to eat the young and unlikable, but it’s even more frustrating when other women follow its lead.
Grade: 2/10 SPECS
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This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Andrea Thompson is a writer, editor, and film critic who is also the founder and director of the Film Girl Film Festival.
She is a member of the Chicago Indie Critics and runs her own site, A Reel Of One's Own, and has written for RogerEbert.com, The Spool, The Mary Sue, Inverse, and The Chicago Reader. She has no intention of becoming any less obsessed with cinema, comics, or nerdom in general.