The Land Of Steady Habits

THE LAND OF STEADY HABITS revisits the state of a State—Connecticut—that writers from the East Coast clearly see as the most successful—and therefore most miserable—of the original thirteen colonies. Do they have an Anxiety Tax there? Is it even safe to drive through? Has Rhode Island built a wall —“and New York will pay for it!” ? *

‘Anders Harris’ (Ben Mendelsohn) has left his career in finance, left his dissatisfied wife ‘Helene’ (Edie Falco) and left others who knew him fed up with his whimsical choices and insensitive behaviors. Unable to connect with his slacker 20-something son ‘Preston’ (Thomas Mann), he is, courtesy of drugs and timing, able to have a friendly rapport with young stoner ‘Charlie Ashford’ (Charlie Tahan), who, like Preston, is alienated from his parents, friends of Helene and her new partner ‘Donny’ (Bill Camp), and loyally angry at Anders. Anders is unable to face the past and make new relationships with women work.

Mid-life crisis, youthful scorn, suburban malaise, yet again, with well-off families in well-off Connecticut hurting themselves as individuals and units, because having everything has brought them nothing, or—haven’t we been here before? Good stray moments grabbed from cast members do not a satisfying 98 minutes make in this 2018 dramedy. Watchable actors battle unsympathetic characters in artificial situations.  

Adapted from Ted Thompson’s 2014 debut novel, written & directed by Nicole Holofcener, who has a demonstrated knack for crafting similarly intimate relationship examinations (Enough Said), but this time out she falters— in the dialogue (stilted), the pacing (torpid), and the scene-to-scene and cumulative payoffs (not funny when it tries to be, not touching when it’s supposed to go that way). Pretty much a shrug.

Ben Mendelsohn and Bill Camp are worth watching at all times, in anything, ditto Elizabeth Marvel (as Charlie’s mom), and for their fans their presence alone can be enough to justify a watch.  Also in the cast: Connie Britton and Michael Gaston. Not filmed in Connecticut, but in Tarrytown, New York.

 * Is everyone in Connecticut miserable?—–Revolutionary Road, The Ice Storm, Gentleman’s Agreement, The Four Seasons, The Swimmer, Far From Heaven, The Wife, Quiz Show, Mystic Pizza, The Visitor, The Man In The Gray Flannel Suit, Long Days Journey Into Night, The Stepford Wives, The Ref, A Simple Favor, RachelRachel, Rachel Getting Married.…….

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