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Movie Review: 'Bad Behaviour' Starring Jennifer Connelly

Actress Alice Englert goes behind and in front of the camera to showcase the incredible talent of Jennifer Connelly in Bad Behaviour.

By Sean PatrickPublished 17 days ago 4 min read

Bad Behaviour (2024)

Directed by Alice Englert

Written by Alice Englert

Starring Jennifer Connelly, Alice Englert, Ben Whishaw

Release Date June 14th, 2024

Published June 7th, 2024

Bad Behaviour stars Jennifer Connelly as Lucy, a former child star struggling with anger and abandonment issues. As we meet Lucy, she's driving and listening to a recording of a guru in an attempt to get over her anger issues. As she's driving and listening, she's also experiencing road rage and lashing out. The irony is intentional. During the drive, she calls her daughter, Dylan (Alice Englert) who is in New Zealand where she works as a stunt actor. Mother and daughter's fraught relationship can be picked up immediately but the fact that the call drops mid-conversation and neither tries to reconnect is a strong indication of the state of their relationship.

Lucy's guru is Elon (Ben Whishaw) a man who claims to have found enlightenment and is prepared to teach that enlightenment to others. For the next three days, Lucy will navigate through a period of imposed silence, no wi-fi, and a series of workshops aimed at getting in touch with various traumas and anxieties that lead to issues of anger and prevent people from reaching an enlightened state. One of Elon's biggest catchphrases is 'Never Give in to Hope.' If that sounds like a bizarre catchphrase, you're right, it is. But, the movie does attempt to explain this odd non-sequitur. Instead of hoping to get better, Elon suggests you simply be what you hope, thus making hope unnecessary.

Writer-Director Alice Englert's approach to the touchy-feely world of self-help gurus and enlightenment experts is to take them seriously. It would be very easy to turn the guru and the people attending his retreat into a cheap joke. Englert instead, engages with the self-help stuff and leaves it entirely up to you if you want to make fun of it. As for Lucy, she wants the retreat to work. She wants to be better but everything in her mind prevents her from giving in and giving herself over to the experience of the retreat. Lucy's fears and anxieties about aging then get a kick in the pants when a young model, Beverly (Dasha Nekrasova) arrives late to the retreat and becomes the star of the event, it's most outstanding student.

Beverly and Lucy do not hit it off and how that plays out is a key point in the final act that I will not mention here. Meanwhile, Dylan is doing well in New Zealand. Not only does she love doing stunt work, she has also started a flirtatious affair with the handsome star of the movie, Elmore (Marlon Williams). Dylan's subplot doesn't so much as mirror Lucy's plot as it acts as a break from the growing frustration and tension that keeps rising in Alice's plot. Alice's plot is a boiling cauldron and Dylan's romance and good humor are a needed break in the tension. Naturally, the mother-daughter story will coalesce which leads to a strange, funny, and moving end.

Bad Behaviour debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2023 and was not well received. The film has earned mostly mixed reviews and some of that has to do with director Alice Englert's choices as a director. I happen to like most of the choices Alice Englert makes. I love her framing of shots. The choices she makes in placing her actors in specific frames is striking and visually pleasing. That said, I can understand some of the criticism. For instance, a scene where Elon is conducting a sort of interview with one of the retreat members is shot oddly. Here, Englert chooses to shoot upwards to the ceiling with the actors viewed from a low angle.

There is nothing wrong with a low angle shot but such choices should be motivated. There needs to be a visual reason why you've chosen an odd angle for the action of the scene and the choice to shoot the actors from underneath doesn't seem to have a reason. There is no new visual information, we are not gaining any new visual insight into the two actors in the scene. The character talking with Elon is Dion played by Beulah Koale, and, until this point in the movie, he's been a background character with little to no dialogue. This scene establishes why he's at this retreat but nothing in his story establishes the need for shooting him from an unusual angle. Sometimes a director just wants to make a visual more interesting and I appreciate that, but this didn't work.

I cannot deny that there are sloppy elements to Bad Behaviour but some of the mess is intentional. Some of the mess is reflective of these messy characters and the mess they are creating in their lives. I am eager to forgive some of the mess of Bad Behaviour because I find so much of the film engaging, darkly comic, and exceptionally well-acted. Jennifer Connelly's performance in Bad Behaviour is really great. She gives us a main character who is brittle, angst and guilt ridden, and whose emotions are a powder keg that drives the movie. We are waiting for her to explode and send the movie flying everywhere and when that happens, it sets up a final act that gives Connelly a wonderful showcase for her remarkable talent. That the movie ends on a note of silly and whimsy after all of what occurs somehow feels graceful in the end.

Bad Behaviour arrives in limited release in theaters and Video-On-Demand on June 14th, 2024.

Find my archive of more than 20 years and nearly 2000 movie reviews at Find my modern review archive on my Vocal Profile, linked here. Follow me on Twitter at PodcastSean. Follow the archive blog on Twitter at SeanattheMovies. Listen to me talk about movies on the I Hate Critics Movie Review Podcast. If you have enjoyed what you have read, consider subscribing to my writing on Vocal. If you'd like to support my writing, you can do so by making a monthly pledge or by leaving a one time tip. Thanks!


About the Creator

Sean Patrick

Hello, my name is Sean Patrick He/Him, and I am a film critic and podcast host for the I Hate Critics Movie Review Podcast I am a voting member of the Critics Choice Association, the group behind the annual Critics Choice Awards.

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