Sundance Film Festival Review: Jennifer Connelly Dazzles in the Sophisticated Cultural Satire Bad Behaviour

Sundance Film Festival Review: Jennifer Connelly Dazzles in the Sophisticated Cultural Satire Bad Behaviour

Creating an equally sophisticated and satirical exploration into the toxicity of a person who has little regard to how their self-serving actions affect the people in their life can be a challengw for even the most experienced filmmakers. But actress Alice Englert, the daughter of Oscar-winning filmmaker Jane Campion, effortlessly crafted a tantalizing story that chronicles how lingering childhood pain can transform people into narcissists in her feature film writing and directorial debut, the comedy-drama Bad Behaviour.

In Bad Behaviour, former child actress, Lucy (Jennifer Connelly), seeks enlightenment as she reflect on how her success in her youth has affected her as an adult. So she decides to make a pilgrimage to join her guru, Elon Bello (Ben Whishaw), for a semi-silent retreat at a beautiful mountain resort in the Oregon-based Loveland Ranch, which is located in the foothills of Mt. Hypnosis.

Before she disconnect from the world, Lucy calls her daughter, Dylan (Englert), a stunt woman who’s training for a dangerous fight scene on set in New Zealand (where the movie was shot), to announce that she’s going be unavailable and out of range. While Lucy adds that she’s very worried about her daughter, she disregards Dylan’s emotions by announcing that she might extend her stay at the resort.

Upset by her strained relationship with Dylan, Lucy connects with a young model-influencer, Beverly (Dasha Nekrasova), who also arrives at the retreat. While Lucy and Beverly initially connect in order to overcome their pain in their own respective mother-daughter relationships, Lucy eventually becomes disillusioned with Beverly’s fear of losing the advantage of her youth. As a result, Lucy is driven to take her bad behavior to an astonishing low.

As a first-time feature film scribe-helmer, Englert expertly balances sincerity and satire in the emotionally gripping exploration of Lucy’s self-help journey. The former child star is a well-defined and developed protagonist who, like most self-aware adults, recognizes the errors of her actions and treatment of the people in her life, especially Dylan and Beverly.

However, in a parody of the effects of the spiritual-enlightenment industry, Lucy’s initially too afraid to publicly admit her faults and the shortcomings in her life. As a result, she instead lashes out and punishes those who are closest to her in an effort to express her pain and anger.

Connelly, who, like her character, was also a child actress in the 1980s, made her triumphant return to a genuine and well-defined dramatic role in Bad Behaviour. Throughout her new film, the actress, who won an Oscar in 2002 for her role in the biographical drama, A Beautiful Mind, effortlessly emphasizes Lucy’s true desire to connect with her serious side. The actress shows that her character wants to believe she’ll find the true peace and understanding she craves at the retreat.

Unfortunately, even with Lucy’s authentic wish to be enlightened, Connelly naturally showcases how her character often becomes trapped in her impatient, often intolerant personality. The actress also masterfully captured Lucy’s entitled, self-involved nature and desire to put her own needs first at the expense of her daughter. The character is also presented as being so resentful that she had to take care of her family as a child actress that she didn’t know how to put her daughter’s needs and emotions before her own.

Lucy does begin to have a breakthrough in seeing how her self-serving actions have affected her relationship with Dylan after the former reaches her breaking point and has an unexpected altercation with Beverly at the resort.

As a result, Dylan, who has personal problems of her own to contend with in New Zealand, decides to fly to Oregon to see her mother and begin working on solving her mother’s problems instead of her own. Their unexpected reunion starts off tense, but after they begin discussing their strained relationship, they realize how drastically different they view their memories together.

During her scenes with Connelly, Englert powerfully proves her talent as an actress who commands the screen by unapologetically sharing her character’s feelings with her mother. The latter also proves her authentic ability to create sentiment about the importance of repairing strained relationships between parents and their children as a screenwriter who can show both characters’ perspectives.

Besides Englert’s ease of working with actors like Connelly to shape and define their complicated characters, due to her own acting background, the up-and-coming director also also proves has a talent for infusing alluring, detailed visuals into her projects. Englert closely collaborated with Bad Behaviour’s cinematographer, Matt Henley to brilliantly capture the wide-shot rural landscape of both the retreat and the movie set that Dylan is working on.

Englert captivatingly interwove satire into the serious exploration of how lingering childhood pain can transform people into narcissists in her feature film writing and directorial debut. With the help of Connelly’s strong performance as Lucy, Englert showcases how the protagonist wants to find the true peace she craves. Unfortunately, her intolerant personality ultimately holds her back from truly doing so, as well as connecting with people.

Combined with Henley’s stunning cinematography, the overall stunning attention to detail Englert infused into Bad Behaviour make the comedy-drama an important entry in social commentary filmmaking.

Grade: B

Bad Behaviour had its world premiere on January 21 in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.

Check out more of Karen Benardello’s articles.

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