Life is Lovely but banal in ' Bad Behaviour'

November 05, 1993|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Film Critic

Behaviour," which opens today at the Charles for a week, reminded me a great deal of Robert Altman's "Short Cuts." Same subject: the beautiful banality of real life. Same idea: follow the tangled concerns of a group of people geographically unit"Bad Behaviour," which opens today at the Charles for a week, reminded me a great deal of Robert Altman's "Short Cuts." Same subject: the beautiful banality of real life. Same idea: follow the tangled concerns of a group of people geographically united but spiritually separated as they criss and cross through each other's lives. Same setting: a big city (L.A. in Altman, London here.) Same moral: life stinks, but it's better than death, lots better.

The centerpiece in the film is a couple played by two fine actors, Stephen Rea and Sinead Cusack. He's Gerry McAllister, a city planner, urban intellectual, gentle ironist. He actually reads: poetry and Christopher Lasch's "The Culture of Narcissism." Ellie, his wife, is a book-seller, housewife, mother and reluctant foreman of a project to rehabilitate her bathroom. She's the ringmaster, he's the breadwinner. Not an easy life, but an interesting one.

Meanwhile, others move through their wake. First and foremost is Howard Spink (Philip Jackson), an entrepreneur and con man who's all bluff but not beyond the odd bit of mischief. He calls the renovators, then charges the McAllisters 120 pounds for "consultancy" and pretends to be astounded when they refuse to pay. Then there's one of Ellie's friends, a young girl in Gerry's office and identical twin remodelers. None of these stories is particularly compelling on its own, but the movie moves in lulling, graceful ways through them, looking for moments of surrealism and comedy as the various people link up in new and strange ways, or just pass in the night.

Rea may be one of the most likable men in movies. There's just something hang-doggy and utterly lovable about his shaggy dog appearance. He even made a terrorist seem like a lost pup in "The Crying Game." Here, as the gentle Gerry, he's a wonder, an extremely decent chap just trying to keep going. The movie is an interesting contrast to the utterly synthetic "A House of Our Own" which beats you over the head with its vaunted humanity. This one is too interested in people to care about humanity.

" Bad Behaviour"

Starring Stephen Rea and Sinead Cusack

Directed by Les Blair

Released by October Films

Rated R

***

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