In Spanish with English subtitles
Director: Simon Bross
Cast: Jimena Ayala, Elisa Vicedo, Elena de
Haro, Marco Antonio Treviño, Aurora Cano, Milagros
RunTime: 1 hr 43 mins
Released By: The Picturehouse
Rating: M18 (Sexual Scenes)
Official Website: http://www.maloshabitos.com/
Opening Day: 31 July 2008
Matilde is a nun convinced that faith moves mountains. Secretly
she begins a mystic fasting to end what she considers to be
the second great flood. Elena is a thin and fashion-conscious
woman ashamed of her daughter's chubbiness. She's willing
to do the impossible to make her daughter Linda thin so Linda
will look like a little princess on the day she receives her
first communion. At the same time Elen's husband Gustavo,
a professor of architecture - cannot cope any more with his
wife's bones sticking into him during more intimate moments.
For relief, he turns his attention to a buxom female student
with a hearty appetite.
The film starts off with a moody, eerie shot of what seems
like a child dressed as a nun running towards a door, accompanied
by loud thuds of footsteps resounding in water.
horror movie? Not quite so.
crux of the film’s central theme is more aptly foreshadowed
in the next scene: A Mexican family gathers around for a hearty
family dinner feast, generally exchanging genial and cordial
banter. The upbeat mood swiftly changes when the head of the
family, Ramon, suddenly chokes on his food. A child prays
silently to God to save Ramon (significant plot teaser, but
more later) whilst other members –Elena, Gustavo et
al – rush to perform the Heimlich Maneuver in an attempt
that rescues him.
The act of choking, ironically during a family feast, ingeniously
sets up the stage for the main message: the act and rejection
soon, viewers are re-introduced to Matilde (Jimena Ayala),
who has graduated from fervently religious child to fervently
religious adult with a doctor’s degree. Upon completion
of her studies, she immediately checks herself into a nunnery,
and blinded by her faith, becomes a nun against Ramon’s
hearing that her aunt is gravely ill, she takes upon herself
to suffer (by consuming vinegar whole, and a copious amount
of salt with her food) and pray to God in hope of her aunt’s
recovery. When her aunt does miraculously recover, Matilde
sees it as a reaffirmed testament of the strength of her faith,
and the raw presence of God. In turn, her religious faith
rapidly consumes her, and thereafter, escalates into her overzealous
participation in a life-threatening fast, in which she believes
is the test of her faith, and that true repentance will call
upon God to cease the rain that is causing the deadly floods
we have Linda (Elisa Vicedo), a pre-pubescent who is pressurized
into losing her baby fat by her stylish, and alarmingly thin
mother, Elena (Elena de Haro). Elena’s rejection of
excess food consumption is juxtaposed by her daughter’s
need to consume, resulting in the latter being forced to see
a nutritionist, and later, visit a diet clinic. As the movie
progresses, we gradually realize that Elena’s strict,
and unreasonable behaviour towards Linda’s eating habits
is not driven by parental concern, but is a manifestation
of her own eating disorder.
Elena consumes herself with unrealistic ideals about weight,
her marriage with Gustavo (Marco Treviño) crumbles.
Finding no pleasure in having sex with his almost skeletal
wife, he finds himself caught up in a fiery, sexually charged
relationship with a voluptuous student in which his suppressed
(sexual and eating) appetite reaches an absolute gratifying,
and sensual level of consumption.
first foray into feature film, director and co-scriptwriter
Simón Bross creates a watch-able and interesting (given
the unorthodox subject material), yet largely flawed movie.
The three main narratives in the movie are just not cohesively
connected to each other enough (yes, we know they are relatives,
but so?), and this serves to downplay the depth of the message(s)
he tries to bring across. It largely feels like watching three
stand-alone stories compactly edited, and hence superficially
covered, into one.
the impressive amount of material Bross has to cover in 98
minutes, the movie feels a tat detached and unpolished. As
a result, we are not given enough time and reason to empathise
with the main characters. Somehow, it feels as if they were
given these flaws just for the sake of exploiting and achieving
the movie’s theme.
the particular narrative that sticks out like a sore thumb
(and yet, takes up most of the screen time in the movie) is
of Matilde, and how her faith consumes her into obsessing
with her fast, in the belief that it will move God to save
his lost sheep. The other two stories, in focusing on the
very flawed nature of humans, relates smoother with viewers;
how in the search for perfection, humans overlook others,
even loved ones and at times, their intentions produce a n
major complaint that I have is that Gustavo’s storyline
is seemingly crammed into the movie as a mere infidelity encounter.
As such, it would have been more enlightening if Bross gave
more insight on Gustavo as a person and his relationship with
his family. Or if he had just focused on Matilde’s story,
cut out the rest and put them into his next movie. Or vice
versa. i.e., non-consumption for religious purposes can’t
really be placed on the same pedestal as say, non-consumption/consumption
I must say, the depressing and hopeless atmosphere is without
a doubt, spectacularly captured. From the lingering shots
caught in dark, sedated colours, the sparsely placed, repetitive,
and monotonous background music, the lack of dialogue to the
constant presence of pounding rain, the mood of the movie
relentlessly remind the viewers that Bad Habits isn’t
A) a happy-go-lucky film, B) a movie to take lightly of.
a noteworthy attempt (with a few well-placed twists) but ironically,
by taking too much on his plate, Bross creates a movie that
succeeds… well, just narrowly.
(Leaves a bittersweet taste, and the uneasy discontentment
of being… not quite full)
Review by Casandra Wong