Review: The Land of Steady Habits (2018)

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The Land of Steady Habits (2018)

Directed by: Nicole Holofcener | 98 minutes | comedy, drama | Actors: Ben Mendelsohn, Natalie Gold, Thomas Mann, Connie Britton, Schecter Lee, Edie Falco, Mary Catherine Garrison, Elizabeth Marvel, Victor Slezak, Annabella Rosa, Joe Allanoff

No one escapes a midlife crisis, not even Ander Harris in his fifties. Living in a picturesque middle-class town above New York, working at a bank, married to the lovely Helene, he seems to have it all figured out. But looks are deceiving. Otherwise, his job is tired, so he takes early retirement. Otherwise, Helene is fed up, so he leaves her with Preston, his 27-year-old son who still lives at home. But then Anders notices that starting over is not easy at all.

In drama-with-comedic-tricks ‘The Land of Steady Habits’ we follow Anders in his quest for a better life. Along the way, he notices that he can’t really break free from his past. His son knocks on his door with his problems and his ex-wife is remarkably quick to hook up with another guy. He also has to deal with Charlie, the addicted son of a befriended couple. And dating? That too has its challenges.

‘The Land of Steady Habits’ is not the heavy drama it could have been. Every now and then it hurts, those failed lives of those talented people. Fortunately, writer and director Nicole Holofcener is familiar with the mental toughness that comes with the different stages of life. We see mature characters who have seen too much of life to sink to deep despair. We see younger characters who (usually) still have enough time to recover. And we see that life in all its absurdity puts itself into perspective, which in the case of ‘The Land of Steady Habits’ produces some beautiful scenes.

What helps is that these are fairly rational people, who think before they speak. They are played by a solid cast, including Ben Mendelsohn, Edie Falco, Elizabeth Marvel and Connie Britton. In terms of style, tone and humor, ‘The Land of Steady Habits’ is somewhere between Noah Baumbach (‘Marriage Story’), Lisa Chodolenko (‘The Kids Are All Right’) and Alexander Payne (‘Sideways’). Holofcener is the most cynical of the bunch, without it getting too much.

‘The Land of Steady Habits’ isn’t too original, but it certainly is fascinating and entertaining. With beautiful encounters, painful dialogues and a few scenes to remember. With the sad message that no one escapes a midlife crisis, not even Anders Harris in his fifties.

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