Does it miss the mark?
BAD HABIT (2021)
Following a group of girls, posing as nuns, who’ve gotten themselves entangled with a ruthless drug lord, Habit attempts to take viewers on a journey through the seedy side of Los Angeles and struggles with addiction. Does it miss the mark? Or does it take viewers on a ride they’ll never forget?
Janell Shirtcliff’s directorial debut isn’t helped by an asinine script that would lend itself better to a comedy than the drama it attempts to be. Shirtcliff doesn’t really get anything out of her actors, and she simply cannot keep the rollercoaster script (which she co-wrote) in check. However, even a more experienced director likely would have struggled with the storyline. I’ve seen the film compared to early Tarantino, but I don’t see the connection besides the same ode to vintage fonts. What makes directors like Aronofsky and Tarantino (whom Shirtcliff is obviously inspired by) is their ability to play with reality and the ridiculous effortlessly, something Shirtcliff can never quite grasp. Cinematographer Rain Li makes the film at least passably watchable; however, the entire film feels like an acid trip gone bad.
Mads (Bella Thorne) struggles with her deep devotion to Jesus and her hard partying lifestyle, typically finding herself at odds with herself. Her involvement with washed up actor Eric (Gavin Rossdale) is the ultimate love/hate relationship while her friendship with Addy (Andreja Pejic) and Evie (Libby Mintz) are best described as a shit storm. After Eric’s death to Queenie (Josie Ho), a ruthless drug lord, Mads and her friends pretend to be nuns, moving in with a reclusive blind widow (Ione Skye) while awaiting the wrath of Queenie.
The plotline has no real clear direction, featuring scenes from 1922’s Haxan’s in these odd intercuts that I think are supposed to be flashbacks mixed with psychosis. The heavy religious tones, which verge on the blasphemous for even non-religious viewers, are too on the nose to hold any deep meaning, instead creating a tedious plot line that really makes you just not care about anyone in the film. Finally, the “twist” ending is frankly boring and predictable.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Going to start with the positives and say that Ho and Rossdale carry the film. They make the most of their scenes, and you actually want both to succeed. Personally, I would prefer a film focusing on Queenie’s kingpin rise. Pejic, Mintz, Skye and Pitch Perfect’s Hana Mae Lee really being nothing to the film, although I would say Pejic probably delivers the strongest performance for the amount of screen time we see her.
Thorne appears to be completing the Disney kid “I’m bad now” arch that we’ve seen for years. She really doesn’t have the acting chops to give Mads any depth, nor does she really make anyone care about the character. Her moments of faith come across as laughable while her attempts at dramatics feel like something you can see from a middle school play. In Thorne’s defense, I think even a capable actress would have struggled with making the part of Mads likable; however, because of the weakness of the script, Thorne’s inadequacies as an actress stand out.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
There’s honestly nothing here for anyone. The set design is poor while the costuming leaves much to be desired. Costuming is an odd mix of 5 separate decades with no clear consensus when the film is even supposed to take place. Finally, the hair and makeup are cringe-inducing. One part made me actually laugh out loud being Thorne’s blue clip in extensions are visible when it’s evident her hair is supposed to be poorly dyed.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The soundtrack is a little sporadic, but it definitely fits the film’s tone of being a mess. Personally, I would probably buy the soundtrack album for its eclectic mix of instrumental surf-esque music and fast paced dance music.
I really can’t see anyone adopting the habit of watching this film * da bum tss*. I do think Shirtcliff could become a strong director with more experience, but Habit simply isn’t it. Maybe watch it if you have an hour twenty to spare, but otherwise, give this one a pass.