Another day, another Bella Thorne movie: Habit, now on VOD, is the latest in her growing list of credits for movies that tend to zoom under the radar. Well, this one made more of a blip in 2020 when its sacrilicious subject matter — Thorne leads a trio of here-comes-trouble women who dress up as nuns in order to bilk people, and that’s really just the tip of the iceberg — inspired a petition to block its release. Obviously nothing ever really came of that, although the movie is buried in the weekly avalanche of on-demand streaming fodder, just waiting for someone to stumble over it and be offended.
‘HABIT’: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: A pink trailer in Corpus Christi: Young Mads jumps up and down on her bed and prays vehemently to her big crucifix, as her mother sighs and rolls her eyes. Leap ahead a decade or so to the CITY OF ANGELS, where adult Mads (Thorne) parks her ’73 LTD and heads into a sex-addicts support group, where she just eats the doughnuts, snorts at one of the attendees’ heartfelt confessionals and cuts out. One gets the sense that she isn’t wholly committed to recovery, but she is indeed committed to Jesus, as she speaks directly to him in voiceover like he’s a loose dude who maybe has a bag of weed and shrooms to share, but also is very very divine.
Mads pulls up to Eric’s (Gavin Rossdale) house. He’s a TV star far enough past his prime that he deals drugs to maintain his Bojack Horseman lifestyle. He gives a long-winded quasi-Tarantino speech that includes the phrase “as black and sticky as the devil’s shit” before handing over a stash of cocaine for Mads to deal. She rounds up her besties Evie (Libby Mintz) and Addy (Andreja Pejic) to head to “the club” and get wasted and sell the goods, which apparently requires being scantily clad, so Mads pulls on a nun’s habit, a cross, a zillion pearls and hardly any pants. They finish at the club and party all night with some random hairy men who make off with all the drugs and all the money and now they’re f—ed. AND evicted from their house.
Mads sprawls across the front seat of the LTD and asks Jesus, “I really just don’t want to hurt no more people, show me a sign,” and is that a double negative? Anyway, she peeks up and spots a nun on a street corner with a donation bucket and interprets this as divine intervention: She and Addy and Evie will don wimples and rosary beads and beg folks for money, and that way they can maybe get a motel room and buy some cheap liquor and possibly pay Eric back. Speaking of, he’s trying to coke-snort his troubles away because he’s a middle link on the dealer chain that gets scarier as it goes up, to a shrieking lunatic known as Queenie (Josie Ho), and her right-hand hitman Tuff (Jamie Hince), who resembles a psychotic Gene Autry. This isn’t an ideal situation for our protagonists, but maybe they just need to have a little faith?
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Habit is basically Gregg Araki’s Sister Act, but not as good.
Performance Worth Watching: Oof. Answering this one is more difficult than the equation on the board in Good Will Hunting.
Memorable Dialogue: Mads: “Jesus is taking us by the hips with his manly callused carpenter hands and riding us all the way back home to kingdom come!”
Sex and Skin: Toplessness; lots of peekaboo lingerie; Mads seduces a priest in the confessional.
Our Take: The promo for Habit reads, “Reminiscent of early Tarantino, this edgy, outrageous thriller”- and I’ll stop it right there, because it’s already shot itself in the foot three times. It truly is a Tarantino derivative, which is a retro-throwback style by now — you know, talky script, bursts of color, kitschy soundtrack and outsize supporting characters, although in Habit, all the characters are Tarantino outsize supporting characters, and then, they’re more like thrice-removed Xeroxes of Tarantino outsize supporting characters, and more specifically, Thorne dials down her thrice-removed Xerox of a Tarantino outsize supporting character into a laconic state.
Which brings us to edgy and outrageous. Declaring the film thus does not make it so. Its overt blasphemy is a plea for attention, and once the movie gets it, it has nothing to say. It just waves its middle finger in the air in the general direction of everything, sort of inching toward satire, but what it’s satirizing is anybody’s guess. The title carries a double meaning since its what Mads loves to wear and she also has a heroin addiction, a plot point that’s introduced, forgotten for an hour, then reintroduced in a futile attempt to engage our emotions. Maybe Mads’ ability to justify her grotesque actions to her best invisible pal Jesus is a commentary on the circular logic of unconditional faith, or maybe Thorne and the filmmakers just want to piss off some prudes, assuming they’re gullible enough to take the bait. I didn’t laugh, but not because I was offended. No, I didn’t laugh because I was bored with Habit’s empty, transparent attempt to stir some shit.
Our Call: Jesus Christ. SKIP IT.
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