The subject matter of Bad Behaviour should make for a great movie. A black comedy taking down an entitled and toxic white women? There’s definitely fertile ground here. Tragically, this effort, playing at the Sundance Film Festival, bungles it, at least according to yours truly, while also wasting a committed lead performance from Jennifer Connelly. Proving to be a bit divisive, it seems like this is a love it or hate it flick in Park City this year.
Bad Behaviour is a trying experience, going nowhere, and slowly. The cringe-inducing scenes throughout are supposed to be uncomfortable and funny, as opposed to just mildly grating. It’s a shame, too, since Connelly is up for anything here, while actress turned filmmaker Alice Englert has the germ of an idea. If only the narrative wasn’t so unfocused. Then, you’d at least be able to focus on the performance.
Lucy (Connelly) is a former child actress who spends her time constantly seeking enlightenment. This time, she’s gone to a fairly extreme retreat, one led by a spiritual leader in Elon (Ben Whishaw). Lucy is a veteran of these types of places, but even still, she stands out for her lack of self-awareness and self-centered nature, causing friction.
While attending the retreat, she’s also navigating a consistently turbulent relationship with her stuntwoman daughter Dylan (Englert). They’re close, but there’s a lot of issues, largely stemming from how Lucy treats everyone. As things come to a head with her fellow retreat campers and Dylan, can she change her ways?
Jennifer Connelly does her best with a largely despicable character. You can tell she’s searching for the relatable core here, but unfortunately she never really finds it. She’s solid in the role, to be sure, it’s just a very thin one. Alice Englert is solid as well, though whenever her character takes focus, things grind to even more of a halt. Supporting players, aside from a wasted Ben Whishaw, include Beulah Koale, Dasha Nekrasova, and more.
Filmmaker and co-star Alice Englert sees something in this material that I simply do not. She makes her two leads so prickly, it’s impossible to care about them in the least. Unlikeable protagonists are fine, and welcome, even, but you have to give us something to grab on to. Here, we just never get that, preventing the movie from ever really working.
I didn’t care for Bad Behaviour one bit. Connelly’s Lucy may be searching for a lasting sense of inner peace, but Sundance audiences will more likely be annoyed and bored by Englert’s filmmaking debut. I’m interested to see what she does next, but at least for my part, this was a definitely misfire.