The Land of Steady Habits isn’t your typical Netflix original movie. There are no explosions, monsters, or choreographed fight scenes. This quirky little film is quite the opposite of what many people might expect from a Netflix film. This quirky little film features an ensemble cast, quirky characters, and a very minimalistic approach to filmmaking. What’s even more important is its message, which can escape you if you’re not paying attention. I highly recommend investing 98 minutes of your life to watch this rather offbeat little story about divorce, addiction, and bringing order out of the chaos people make of their lives.
Before I dig into this film, here’s a look at The Land of Steady Habits trailer:
So, what is The Land of Steady Habits About? That’s usually the first question anyone asks when someone tells them that need to see a movie. Well, as plot structures go, this film centers on Anders Hill (Ben Mendelsohn), a man who’s clearly in the grips of a mid-life crisis. Hoping to embark upon a new and free life, Anders retired from his job and divorced his wife, Helene (Edie Falco). While he thought that this would be his ticket to happiness, Anders soon finds his life of disengaged one-night stands during the day and lonely nights at home not to his liking.
I might have painted a bleak picture about, but The Land of Steady Habits is much more than a mid-life crisis movie. Way back in my college creative writing course, the instructor told us that the theme of any good written work can usually be summed up in one word. She was right. The theme of The Land of Steady Habits is addiction, and it can be seen in several character arcs throughout the story:
Anders’ addiction to the thrill of the moment, which includes meaningless sex, drinking, and casual drug use.
Preston, Anders and Helene’s son, is recently back from a stint in rehab.
The addiction to routines based upon the company of others, even people you don’t really like.
Shopping addictions and rampant consumerism, such as buying things you don’t really want or need.
The drug addiction of Charlie (Charlie Tahan), which becomes a pivotal moment in the movie.
Even the title, The Land of Steady Habits, is suggestive of addiction. (“Habit” being a term synonymous with drug and alcohol use.)
While the theme of addiction weaves its web throughout this story, it’s done so in a slight way. In fact, everything about this film – the setting, dialogue, and revelations – is rather sparse and minimalist. You actually have to look and listen hard to find the meaning in The Land of Steady Habits. It’s worth the effort, though. The message of this Netflix film is an important one, and can lead to some important discussions. Mrs. Buckler and I enjoyed talking about it after we watched it.
I liked The Land of Steady Habits because I can relate to it. I’m not far from the age of the main characters, and I deal with many of the same challenges that they face, such as parenting children in their difficult young-adult years, keeping up with the Joneses, and trying to find happiness and meaning in a life that’s halfway over. Perhaps the most interesting element was the buildup to the explosive chaos that’s sometimes needed to usher in a quiet resolution. This is often the case in life, and the film does a decent job of mimicking that phenomenon. All in all, I feel like I understood where the creators were going with this and I could relate.
Some Issues with The Land of Steady Habits
With all of the glowing things I’ve said about this Netflix original movie, I have to tell you that it isn’t perfect. The very thing I praised it for – its minimalistic approach – could be a negative to some viewers. It’s obvious to me that the creators of this film did want not be heavy handed about their approach to the movie’s theme and message. While this bare bones approach worked for a hardcore fill buff like me, it might not appeal to the average movie fan looking for a little more depth. Some viewers might walk away thinking, “Why did I just watch this?” This can happen when moviemakers decided to take bold risks.
To be honest, The Land of Steady Habits should have been a limited series instead of a movie. Even if the creators stretched it to two or three episodes, it would have given this film a chance to breath. More screen time would have meant more character and plot development, which this movie could have used. The climax that the film worked up to would have been bigger, and the resolution wouldn’t have seemed so rushed. Frankly, I wanted to see more of the simmering tension at the holiday dinner table. (You’ll know what I mean when you watch it.)
The Land of Steady Habits is very reminiscent of HBO’s Divorce starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Thomas Haden Church. Divorce’s first two seasons covered a lot of the same mid-life crisis territory as Steady Habits. The settings might seem similar, too. Divorce is set in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, while Steady Habits is set in Tarrytown. Both are small but affluent hamlets inhabited by successful professionals who ride the train into New York City each day for work. To me, the similarities to Divorce were noticeable but not distracting. I don’t how other viewers, particularly hardcore Divorce fans, might feel about that, though.
Watch The Land of Steady Habits
Well, there you have it… that goods and bads of The Land of Steady Habits. If you’re looking for something different, I highly recommend this quirky dysfunctional family drama. At only 98 minutes long, you’ll knock it out without worry about whether or not you should binge watch it, or whether or not Netflix will green light another season. This is a film that’s meant to be enjoyed in one sitting. While it might seem as though these are becoming a thing of the past, there’s still time to catch this one before all of streaming becomes an endless run of TV series. Okay, I doubt it will come to that, but it sometimes feels that way.