Hagerty Journalism Online

A movie of steady misery

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"The Land of Steady Habits was released by Netflix on September 14, 2018.

"The Land of Steady Habits was released by Netflix on September 14, 2018.

Katarina Harrison, Opinion's Editor

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An unlikable main character, a heap of family problems and an overdose of tragedy make the perfect recipe for a painfully bad story, and Netflix’s “The Land of Steady Habits” only manages to make things worse. This trainwreck of a movie combined all the worst moments of life into one painful collage of meaningless disasters unfit for even the most bored of Netflix viewers.

Following former businessman Anders Hill (Ben Mendelsohn), the “The Land of Steady Habits” forces viewers down an increasingly convoluted and hopeless story of a broken family, a teen hoping to escape rehab and a man whose misery drives him to worse and worse decisions. At first, the focus seems to be Hill’s attempts to cope with his divorce, from his attempts at decorating his new house to his equally unsuccessful efforts to connect with his teenage son, Preston (Thomas Mann). While this depiction was somewhat realistic, it was slow and uncomfortable to watch as Hill’s life becomes increasingly pathetic.

When Hill arrives at his ex-wife’s party, the movie seems set to pick up pace, but all the party serves as is more exposition. When Hill, feeling rejected by the adult guests of the house, joins a group of teenagers smoking in the yard, the audience is introduced to Charlie (Charlie Tahan), who most of the rest of the movie focuses on.

For being the most likeable character in the movie, Charlie has a lot of flaws. He is headstrong, reckless, and addicted to the drugs he shared with Hill at the party. After being hospitalized for a drug overdose, his creativity and artistic talent are put on display, and later in the show, he is shown to care deeply for a turtle he owns–these traits make him more of a decent human than anyone else in the film.

As Hill befriends Charlie, his decision-making skills become increasingly suspect. Providing no moral compass for the boy and even joining him as he returns to the drugs that had landed him in the hospital, Hill displays a shocking lack of regard for the boy’s safety or life. Few movies can overcome the challenge of an unlikable main character, and the vague, barely there plot of the movie makes it certain that Netflix will also fall short.

All the same, the movie and its parade of tragedy seemed bearable and salvageable until the end, where no moral, resolution, or even conclusion was offered to stop the viewer from feeling like they had just wasted an hour of their life. Every problem that was presented was either worsened or left to fester, and the only symbol of improvement in anyone’s life is literally thrown in a trash can near the end of the movie. In the end, “The Land of Steady Habits” mistakes tragedy for plot and misery for character development, and is not worth wasting your time on.

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A movie of steady misery