The Land of Steady Habits (2018)

The Land of Steady Habits
Director: Nicole Holofcener
Writer: Nicole Holofcener
Based on: Ted Thompson’s novel
Cast: Ben Mendelsohn, Edie Falco, Thomas Mann, Elizabeth Marvel, Charlie Tahan, Michael Gaston, Connie Britton, Bill Camp
Seen on: 9.10.2022

Anders (Ben Mendelsohn) is starting over. He separated from his wife Helene (Edie Falco), his son Preston (Thomas Mann) is an adult fresh out of rehab and Anders decided to take an early retirement. So he drifts through his new life aimlessly, always looking for decorations for his new house and casual hook-ups. Almost out of boredom, he attends the Christmas party of his old friends, the Ashfords (Elizabeth Marvel, Michael Gaston). At the party he finds’ their son Charlie (Charlie Tahan) and his friends doing drugs and joins in. This has some unintended an unhappy consequences.

The Land of Steady Habits takes a much-covered topic, the male mid-life crisis, and gets something new and sensitive from it that is often lacking in other portrayals. It doesn’t work all the time, but it is interesting enough to give it a go.

The film poster showing Anders (Ben Mendelsohn) standing in front of a wall of folded towels in a store, neatly arranged by colors.

The Land of Steady Habits is at its best when it captures the little things. Anders’ increasing sense of alienation from himself, from the people around him, his quest to find some new meaning and a new place in his life to call home, both literally and figuratively.

Mendelsohn does some excellent work with Anders, getting the nuances just right that you can still see Anders’ vulnerabilities even when he makes some extremely shitty choices. That is important for Anders to remain at least somewhat likeable, so we can root for him. It definitely works.

Anders (Ben Mendelsohn) standing next to his ex-wife Helene (Edie Falco).

The film does fall apart a little bit when it decides that low stakes drama isn’t quite enough. I did appreciate that it makes clear that the self-involved behavior of the parents can have very dire consequences for their children, but when the drama goes all the way up it just didn’t feel believable anymore – and so the grand finale lacks the emotional impact it would have desperately needed.

It’s a slow-moving film, mostly episodic in structure which fits the fragmented life that Anders leads at the moment very well, but also means that the film feels a little long. It is still worth a look, though, if you are in the mood for something calm.

Anders (Ben Mendelsohn) hanging up Christmas decorations with his son Preston (Thomas Mann).

Summarizing: not bad at all.

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