Ah, to be a mediocre white man. To never question that you are the star of the narrative, and your story is so compelling it’s only natural you’d get such attention. Unless, of course, your story were one of character growth…sort of. You could still get away with a lot of shit, though, like putting up tacky Christmas decorations and having in-depth discussions about turtles, especially if you were the lead in this week’s film.
The Land of Steady Habits
In the throes of a mid-life crisis, a newly single man who has taken an early retirement struggles to find the better life he’s in search of.
The setting: a small town Bed Bath & Beyond. It’s only when faced with the impossible task of decorating empty shelves that you realize how daunting a task it is to make a decision amidst endless rows of home goods. Such is Anders’ lot in life as a newly separated man who has opted for an early retirement from his soulless Wall St. job. In the process, Anders has managed to alienate virtually everyone in town, including adult son Preston (and yes–there are apparently people so white they will unironically name their child Preston).
Despite his midlife-crisis-induced decision to pursue a different, more fulfilling life, Anders doesn’t seem to be any closer to his lofty goal. Through a rotating series of one-night stands, Anders is often unable to perform and continues to feel alone. Desperate for a connection to his former life, Anders accepts the open invite to a party hosted by a family friend–one that ex-wife Helene will most definitely attend (with her live-in boyfriend).
Ostracized by the other adults at the party, Anders wanders outside and encounters his fellow kids. Believing Charlie, a friend of Preston’s, is out smoking weed with the group, Anders casually joins in–only to learn moments later that he’s actually done PCP. When Charlie overdoses later during the party, Anders feels enough remorse to visit him at the hospital.
Meanwhile, Anders regrets his decision to let Helene keep the house as part of their settlement. As it turns out, Anders can’t afford the mortgage and his early retirement, so it won’t be long before Helene loses the house anyway. However, Anders can’t bring himself to tell Helene the truth–mostly because he doesn’t want to get chewed out yet again for his terrible judgment.
Preston isn’t about to let his father make all of the awful decisions here, choosing to gamble with money from one of the ESL students he teaches. Helene is none too pleased as she was able to wrangle the job for her son in the first place only to end up firing him. It all hits the fan when Helene kicks Preston out of the house, and Preston reveals that, soon enough, Helene may not have anywhere to live either.
As Anders finally meets a woman he’d actually like to spend time with, he reconnects with Charlie. Since Charlie’s parents are forcing him to go to rehab, he asks Anders to take care of his pet turtle. After Anders agrees to take care of the turtle, Charlie runs away, rejecting rehab.
In a rather cruel twist, Preston, who went through his own addiction issues with alcohol, is now making deliveries for a liquor store. When he’s encountered with a classmate who seems to have his life completely together, Preston decides to end his sobriety…until discovering something horrible has happened to Charlie.
After the truth comes out about Anders’ questionable choices in enabling Charlie, our hero once again decides to leave his life behind. Will Anders ever stick around anywhere long enough to face the consequences of his actions?
3/5 Pink Panther Heads
It’s difficult to fault the performances here, even if Edie Falco is almost criminally underutilized in this film.
However, there’s not much going on beyond the actors’ commitment to their roles. The meandering plot is understandable given the character-driven nature of this piece…but it’s frequently very difficult to care about our lead (or any of the characters, honestly). Anders is the focus of our character study, but IDK if he really deserves our attention. He constantly makes bad decisions and rarely has to deal with the consequences. It’s frustrating to see him do everything except much-needed self-reflection to process his emotions. And Preston follows a similar pattern despite all of the support and love he receives from Edie Falco!
What I’m trying to say here is Edie Falco deserves a better fictional husband and son. And a better role, while we’re at it.