Directed by Janell Shirtcliff
Starring Bella Thorne, Gavin Rossdale, Paris Jackson, Josie Ho, Libby Mintz, Larissa Andrade, Andreja Pejic, Hana Mae Lee, Ione Skye, Aarón Díaz, Jamie Hince, Alison Mosshart, and Hayley Marie.
L.A. party girl Mads gets a gig running drugs for Eric, a washed-up Hollywood star. When their cash gets stolen and Eric is slain by a rival drug lord, Mads and her two BFFs hide out by dressing up as nuns.
On paper, the concept of musician/actor Bella Thorne playing a Bible-thumping sex-positive drug addict in a pickle sounds like a recipe for something, at the very least, mildly entertaining. Unfortunately, Habit (directed by first-time filmmaker Janell Shirtcliff, co-writing alongside Libby Mintz) is a disastrous bore built on that one-note joke involving narration about her love for Jesus juxtaposed with raunchy behavior. The narrative is pretty much a failure from the beginning as it tries to illustrate Mads’ (Bella Thorne) devotion to God through a flashback montage. However, it somehow doesn’t teach anything about the character, meaning the ensuing 70 minutes of her antics (mercifully, the movie is incredibly short) are more aggravating than endearing criminal rebellion taking a swing at the patriarchy.
The direction and script are woefully incompetent, so for as awful as Bella Thorne is here (a stream of constant overacting and abysmal line delivery), it’s also hard to place all the blame on her considering the character is severely underwritten. Instead, watching Habit is like repeatedly telling the same unfunny joke, which I suppose is the real bad habit here from the filmmakers. In addition to rambling voiceovers and flashback imagery that amounts to nothing, there’s a desperate attempt to give the dialogue some punkish kick to it, also failing miserably. With supporting characters such as fellow musician Gavin Rossdale playing a former actor turned drug dealer supplying Mads (and her party animal friends) with cocaine to sell, all of whom end up tracked down by what is supposed to be a comedic crime boss, it’s not hard to see why. There’s not a single charming thing about any of these people or reason to cheer Mads and her group on to make up for the inevitably stolen money.
In the interest of trying to say something nice about Habit, the sequence where the girls realize that between their good looks and nun outfits, they can easily convince random people to spare some cash is amusing; they aren’t afraid to flirt or flaunt sexuality for money while still maintaining control. A better movie would have honed in on this aspect and how easy it is to get people, especially men, to lower their guard. As a result, the message of women sticking together and strength through numbers might have resonated slightly more, clichés aside.
Bafflingly, Habit always quickly reverts to wanting to explore Mads as a character but without actually doing so. It’s all surface value observations and lame jokes (the final punch line regarding all the Jesus inner dialogue is treated as a revolutionary thought when it’s actually nothing new and certainly not funny considering nothing about the story is engaging in the first place). Even as an exercise in something erotic and steamy, the direction falls flat and can’t even make a sexual encounter with a priest exciting. This is a terrible movie that is shockingly flat given all the hedonistic elements on display and one that never finds a reason to get attached to bad girls posing as nuns for easy money. Accounting for inexperienced filmmakers and an unqualified cast, Habit still has no excuse to be painfully boring given the ideas on hand.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com