Habit

Habit

2021, R, 81 min. Directed by Janell Shirtcliff. Starring Bella Thorne, Gavin Rossdale, Paris Jackson, Libby Mintz, Josie Ho.

REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., Aug. 20, 2021

About 10 minutes into Janell Shirtcliff’s tedious shockarama, the far-from-addictive Habit, I inwardly yelled, “Yes, we get it, you’ve seen The Doom Generation!” But Gregg Araki’s transgressive master class in sleaze is 25 years old, and Habit feels worn out and derivative, from its worn-out antiheroines to its boilerplate amorality.

In her quest to put her studio-sanctioned “next big thing” tag behind her, Bella Thorne has done interesting work, as proven in bleak revenge drama Girl. Yet Habit’s diffident Mads feels like a misstep, a shallow-deep small-town Texas girl washed up in Los Angeles and partying with her equally listless and disinterested friends. All she does here is pout and undercut any actual drama through a baffling narration – actually her talking to Jesus, who she loves in a very carnal way. That may be why she convinces her friends to disguise themselves as nuns when they get on the wrong side of a faded TV star (Rossdale) and a gun-toting, snake-handling drug dealer, Queenie (Ho, who seems to think she’s in a mid-era John Waters movie and is way too extra for this).

Habit is so desperate to be edgy that it loops all the way back around to derivative, and wastes any potential Thorne might have brought to play. Sure, if you’re fascinated with the scummier, directionless fringes of L.A., Habit might appeal in the same morbid curiosity way as the meandering but fascinating failure of Under the Silver Lake. At least David Robert Mitchell’s mess was well-made. Aside from the cast all seeming that they were in different films, with constantly disconnecting performances (the only guidance seems to be “overact and be wooden at the same time”), the cinematography fails so often that it feels like someone forget to turn the filter off on their iPhone; and was half the cast busy during ADR? Maybe they just no-showed, because even decent sound wouldn’t save this sloppy, hackneyed attempt to revive drive-in “bad girls” exploitation cinema, with just enough religious symbolism to get the humorless Jesus freaks annoyed.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Bella Thorne Films
Midnight Sun
Ill met by daylight in this photosensitive romance.

Danielle White, March 30, 2018

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip
Call the exterminator: The tuneful rodents are back

Josh Kupecki, Dec. 18, 2015

More by Richard Whittaker
Getting Real Weird at Fantastic Fest
Getting Real Weird at Fantastic Fest
Two gems from the Weird Wednesday archive connect the genre fest to the Alamo Drafthouse’s history

Sept. 17, 2021

Prisoners of the Ghostland
Nic Cage and Sion Sono craziness is not the sum of its parts

Sept. 17, 2021

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Habit, Janell Shirtcliff, Bella Thorne, Gavin Rossdale, Paris Jackson, Libby Mintz, Josie Ho

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle