The Land of Steady Habits (2018) reviewed by Jonathan Berk

It’s crazy to think how many films come out that you never hear about. While looking to find highly rated films from 2018 that I’d missed, I stumbled upon a Netflix Original – The Land of Steady Habits (2018). Before watching it, I’d not heard too much chatter about it, but since my viewing, it has come up on some of the podcasts that I listen to. It’s a shame how many solid films Netflix and other streaming services have which arrive on their platforms that many of us never hear about. Fortunately, I did my research and found a film that I mostly enjoyed.

The Land of Steady Habits highlights Mendelsohn’s biggest talent

Anders Harris (Ben Mendelsohn) has left his wife (Edie Falco) and career on his search for happiness but is finding that life isn’t much greener on this side. While attending a party of a mutual friend to his ex-wife, he befriends their son Charlie (Charlie Tahan), whose drug addiction is becoming more of a problem, which sends Anders down a path where he makes increasingly bad decisions. He finds himself dealing with his own son, Preston (Thomas Mann), his ex’s new boyfriend, and a former friend of his and dating anew while searching for whatever is missing in his life.

Mendelsohn is excellent at playing the sympathetic jerk. Much like his character in Mississippi Grind (2015), Anders problems are mostly self-inflicted. If the actor in the role isn’t able to earn your sympathy or empathy the film is likely doomed. Mendelsohn does this effortlessly to the point that even when he’s doing things that made me want to yell at the screen for him to “stop,” I never disliked Anders. I believe its the presence that Mendelsohn is able to bring to a role like this where there is clearly no malice in his choices. He may even be aware that the decisions he is making are wrong, but he has reached a point that he just doesn’t feel there is a better option. Ultimately, this movie succeeds or fails with the casting of its lead, and director Nicole Holofcener nailed it.

Of course, Mendelsohn isn’t the only great cast member in this film. Tahan deserves a bit of praise. He gets some great scenes with Mendelsohn and is a character that needs to grab the audience quickly and succeeds easily. He is both likable and yet we are concerned for him while understanding where he is coming from. Mann, who I am a fan of from Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015), has not been great in everything, but I feel he gets to showcase his talents here. He is really good at snarky dialogue and he gets several solid lines to deliver. Connie Britton and Edie Falco are the women in Anders life one being a potential new relationship and the other the ex-wife, respectively, both give great performances. Britton isn’t in the film as much as I would have liked, but I was instantly enthralled by her character and the connection she makes with Anders. They meet inside a men’s room a strip club, a place that neither wishes to be but fate would have them find each other.

It is highly probable that this film will make you look away as Anders makes progressively more destructive choices. I usually don’t speak my thoughts about a film out loud while watching it unless something really hits just right. There were several times when I vocalized my discomfort as I could foresee what choices were available and none looked extremely promising. Not to imply this is a melodrama as I think most of the moments are kept rather tame despite the potential to be elevated, but Anders is empathetic and I didn’t want him to destroy himself.

Final thoughts…

I found The Land of Steady Habits to be a very solid film and enjoyed the overall experience it offered. Mendelsohn gave a few solid performances in 2018, but this was by far my favorite. It helped wash the memory of that horrible Robin Hood movie from my mind and replaced it with a much more pleasing one. The Land of Steady Habits earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.

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