Jennifer Connelly in “Bad Behavior”, “Top Gun: Maverick”.

Alice Englert’s directorial debut, Bad Behaviour, is uniquely positioned to touch on some of 2023’s biggest cultural questions. It tells the story of a former child star (Jennifer Connelly) whose search for meaning draws her into the path of a shady “guru”. Ben Whishaw) promising enlightenment, the film eventually touches on everything from the endless “nepo baba” discourse (which Connelly was mercifully unaware of) to online wellness talk.

After the film premiered to strong reviews, Englert, Connelly and Whishaw stopped by Sundance’s IndieWire Studio presented by Dropbox to discuss what drew them to the unique project. Both Connelly and Whishaw praised Engler’s ability to create three-dimensional characters that they could relate to.

“Very complicated, you know?” She’s not totally good, she’s not totally bad, but she does some really, really bad things,” Connelly said of her character Lucy. “And I loved that Alice wrote a story where there was room for these characters to behave in complicated ways as they worked through their problems. I love that he had a sense of humor, I think he’s very funny. And I loved that at the core, I think he was someone who was looking for enlightenment and was looking to transcend suffering and all pain. This is what she wanted for herself, and this is what she wanted for her relationship with her daughter. He wanted them to be in a good, healthy place, but it gets so lost in translation because he’s carrying around all this baggage and it affects everything he does. I think it’s a very interesting and moving story.”

Whishaw was also fascinated by the script, explaining that her genuine interest in spiritual wellness made her a joy to explore in her character’s noble and sordid sides.

“I’m very impressed with these types of people,” Whishaw said. – And not just cynically, ironically, amusingly, although it’s very easy to be like that in front of them. I’m actually very interested in what they do. So in that sense it was easy because I’m interested in what happens when someone says they’re enlightened. What experiences do they have of the world, what does it feel like to live in peace.”

The indie film was something of a change for Connelly, who most recently starred in Top Gun: Maverick. With the film’s dominant performance at the box office now firmly in the rearview mirror, the actress reflected on what made the sequel so successful.

“I think it’s a very well-made film, to be honest,” he said. “I think everyone did a really good job. I think Joe Kosinski is a great director. It’s a huge undertaking and I think it’s hard to do a movie like this well, and I think he did a spectacular job with it. With what they have achieved, you can feel that the flying sequences are real. It’s a huge achievement and it’s been executed so expertly and I think it’s really exciting to see. The story is really solid and Tom Cruise is extraordinary. It really came together and I think the overall feeling is festive, uplifting and satisfying.”

“Bad Behaviour” premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Currently looking for distribution.

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