20 June 2015 | linkogecko
A very flawed but admirably unique effort of Mexican cinema
Director Simón Bross probably never won any big awards for Best Direction with this, his first (and so far only) movie, but if there were awards for MOST Direction I'm sure that even now, 8 years after its release (and first time I saw it), "Malos Hábitos" would remain unrivaled amongst Mexican cinema in that field. Due to relatively low budgets and inexperienced crews, Mexican films have a tendency to significantly lack ambition in some way, be it excessively simple screenplays, bad performances, low production values, unremarkable visuals or any combination of those and others. Sure, from time to time (specially in the decade of the 00s) a Cuarón will show up doing impressive long takes that had long been forgotten in our national cinema, or an unwieldy Arriaga screenplay will be masterfully executed by an Iñárritu and together they'll help define hyperlink cinema before there even was a name for it. For the most part however, Mexican directors will usually keep their ambitions too low resulting in unremarkable films. Bross's "Malos Hábitos" doesn't even TRY to keep its ambitions low, resulting in something downright unique. For starters, its screenplay tackles a multitude of themes with an emphasis on three pretty heavy ones: religion, family relations and eating disorders. These themes are tackled in a surprisingly confident way considering their weight (no pun intended) and for the most part the movie actually has something to say about each of them.
It's in its direction that "Malos Hábitos" actually stands out, however. Bross seems to be one of the rare Mexican directors that understands the importance of visuals in film to the point of even making conscious decisions about details as small as the placement of water drops on objects. While the cinematography definitely follows what was trendy back then (dark, gritty image at least partially influenced by "Amores Perros") and thus is starting to look dated, its execution is still spot-on. The performances range from serviceable to very good, with a couple of downright great bits of acting and not a single one that can be deemed "bad". The film is defined by taking place almost entirely during a very heavy wet season and the rain just doesn't stop. Either the film's production was entirely dependent on waiting for the right weather for almost every shot or they rented every single rain machine in the country but the result is that, in the movie, rain truly feels like the unrelenting and unstoppable force of nature it can be. The locations and production design are one of those rare cases where they're very noticeable but because of how good they are (interesting architecture playing a particularly important role). The film is bold enough to even include full-on SFX-dependent dream sequences for one of its characters, and they're surprisingly well-executed.
On the other hand, edition is definitely this film's weakest aspect, with it being a bit overlong and featuring some downright weird editing choices (the doorknob/teeth-brushing montage being the clearest example). Unfortunately, for all its successes, the film never really becomes more than the sum of its parts. Even if the parts are pretty good on their own, the way that they never really form into an actual whole definitely damages the end result. For "Malos Hábitos", ambition is both what makes it ultimately notable and its greatest flaw, just fortunately not enough to keep it from being an interesting, unique film, worth watching for anyone who's into Mexican cinema and could do with a break from the usual political/comedic stuff.