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Bad Behaviour ★



Director: Alice Englert

Cast: Jennifer Connolly, Ben Wishaw, Alice Englert

Release: Sundance Film Festival 2023

2023 is set to be the year the nepotism baby thrives. All are now encouraged to embrace their connections, being perceived as more reputable if they just acknowledged where they came from. While Brandon Cronenberg’s Infinity Pool is a stellar example of nepo baby done good, Director Alice Englert’s Bad Behaviour leaves a lot to be desired. Trying to tackle many of life’s big questions while simultaneously not having much to say for itself, the film is left floundering in the fundamentals of the human will to connect and grow.

Lucy (Jennifer Connolly), a former child actress, makes the decision to take a spiritual pilgrimage with her guru Elon (Ben Wishaw). Taking to a silent retreat in the reclusive mountainside, she reflects on her strained relationship with her stunt-double daughter Dylan (Alice Englert), who is working in New Zealand. Attempting to reach out to her, Lucy’s behaviour suddenly takes a turn for the worse. 

Though this is Englert’s debut feature, directing could be said to run in her blood, as she is the daughter of two-time Oscar-winning director Jane Campion. If her first piece of work is anything to go by, the apple has fallen fairly far from the tree, with their similarities beginning and ending in their genetics. Through its 107-minute runtime, Bad Behaviour fails to build or hold onto any tangible emotion. There is a continued disconnect between the audience and onscreen action, unable to provide a reason for viewers to invest their time and mental energy in appreciating what’s to come. This is perhaps down to a case of biting off more than can be chewed, with Englert simultaneously directing and taking on one of the film’s three main roles. It’s an ambitious move even for a seasoned professional — with the character of Dylan potentially suffering as a result.

As expected, the saving grace of Bad Behaviour boils down to the acting chops of Jennifer Connolly and Ben Wishaw. Connolly does the best with what she has, penetrating the emotionless onion she’s been folded into as much as possible. As Lucy struggles to switch off and sleep, there’s a pleasant throwback to her Phenomena days with a Dario Aregnto-esque lighting sequence, which certainly shouldn’t be the pinnacle of her time onscreen. For Wishaw, is a noticeable jump in narrative quality from his other appearance at Sundance — the sexy and unexpected smash Passages. Here, he is both secretive and muted, coveting the holier-than-thou attitude he needs to maintain while selectively slipping into the background. As far as reviews go, critiques of Bad Behaviour cannot be padded out with jazzy superlatives or sexy alliteration — purely because there is very little to say. When it comes down to it, the film is objectively lacking in many areas, unable to sustain itself into a fleshy, full-length feature. In a world that gets what it gives, offering up little means a minuscule return on investment. Sadly, here is our cinematic case and point.

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