Sundance Film Festival 2023 Review: Bad Behaviour

Jennifer Connelly leads Bad Behaviour from writer-director Alice Englert. The project benefits from Connelly’s leading performance as former-child star Lucy, yet Englert’s feature feels let down by its aimless structure, sluggishly paced narrative, and its own shallowness.

Lucy (Connelly) checks into a silent retreat which aims to bring enlightenment to its customers under the leadership and guidance of spiritual leader Elon (Ben Whishaw). Whilst navigating her fellow guests at the retreat, Lucy attempts to get to grips with the turbulent relationship which she shares with her stuntwoman daughter Dylan (Englert).

Englert’s narrative devotes time to exploring Lucy’s struggle to get to grips with the pretentiousness of the retreat and the abundance of narcissism that radiates from its consumers. Lucy, in particular, struggles with the presence of model Beverly (Dasha Nekrasova) whose domineeringly elaborate fawning about the impact of the retreat on her psyche and wellbeing becomes unbearable to the actress. The gradual sniping between the pair makes up most of the first act of Bad Behaviour, with the clash of personality and icy tension between the pair brings some moments of well-pitched humour. Connelly packs the role of Lucy with quiet glances and little sighs when Beverly and Elon communicate, barely able to suppress her distain for the sycophantic retreat and its inhabitants.

Yet even these scenes at the retreat pack a certain shapelessness and lack of definite structure. Aimless overlong scenes of the guests one-to-ones with Elon feel draining and lacking any punch. The practices of the retreat attempt to find humour in their outlandishness – such as guests reconnecting with their mothers and subsequently crawling along the floor like babies. It’s not particularly fresh or insightful, whilst it hammers the overdone feeling of the sycophantic nature of the commune.

Lucy and Beverly’s relationship reaches a violent boiling point, which signals the narrative shift in exploring Lucy’s relationship with her daughter Dylan. It almost feels like two separate films as the pair aimlessly navigate their own relationship. Like her mother, Dylan is going through a period of ennui, navigating a stunted relationship with a married actor. The joining of both these tired presences does little to advance the narrative, whilst this exploration of mother and daughter dynamics provides little warmth, humour or insight.

Whilst Connelly’s Lucy’s frustrations are mildly amusing to watch, it is not enough to sustain the narrative of Bad Behaviour. Proceedings here feel thin and near as shallow as the inhabitants of Elon’s retreat.

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