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Non-Review Review: The Land of Steady Habits

“You’re mean,” observes a potential romantic partner of Anders Hill, around the halfway point of The Land of Steady Habits.

It would be reductive to suggest that this is the most bracing or cutting piece of character work in The Land of Steady Habits, but it is not entirely unfair. The Land of Steady Habits is very much a story of upper-class social anxiety, of wealthy characters without any real problems in their lives who instead fixate on the kinds of problems that less well-off people probably wish that they had. Anders Hill is a prime example. A solemn and depressive figure who has become alienated from his previously idyllic existence, Anders is a character who is entirely responsible for his current predicament.

Going steady.

In some ways, this is very typical of the work of writer and director Nicole Holofcener, who has adapted The Land of Steady Habits from a novel by Ted Thompson. The film’s status as an adaptation accounts for some of the details that distinguish the film from Holofcener’s other work, most notably the focus on a male (rather than a female) protagonist, but The Land of Steady Habits is very much of a piece with Holofcener’s other work. It is a wry and acerbic study of people who have everything except what they actually need, and who stumble around causing emotional carnage while looking for that something.

With that in mind, Holofcener’s films live and die based on the charm of the leading characters – on how much the audience is drawn into the hollow void at the centre of their existence. By that measure, The Land of Steady Habits is a mixed bag at best. Ben Mendelsohn is great as the pathetic and contemptible Anders Hill, an impotent affluent man-child who seems capable of mustering charm for only a few scarce minutes at a time. However, Anders himself is not anybody that it seems particularly interesting or exciting to spend ninety-eight minutes with.

Sofa, so good.

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Non-Review Review: Enough Said

Enough Said is a charming little romantic comedy starring Julia Louise-Dreyfuss as Eva. Eva is a divorced parent who finds herself in the relationship with another charming divorcée, navigating the difficulties of dating-after-marriage and trying to come to terms with her daughter’s impending departure to attend college. Through what another character describes as “an unbelievable coincidence”, our protagonist finds herself in a delightfully awkward romantic situation, trapped between two people very close to her.

Enough Said owes a debt to the classic romantic farce – the comedy of errors and manners – but the humour here is a lot more focused and character-driven. Once the plot becomes clear, it seems like Enough Said might devolve into a slapstick comedy about timing and awkward double entendres, but it’s to the credit of writer and director Nicole Holofcener that the film instead remains tightly focused on Eva and the people around her.

Stepping up...

Stepping up…

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