Things I Like: Disturbing Behavior, the movie

In my head I have trouble distinguishing between Disturbing Behavior, the James Marsden and Katie Holmes thriller, and The Faculty, a similar film featuring Josh Hartnett, Jordanna Brewster, and Clea DuVall. The Faculty is a more inventive and more flawed film, by Robert Rodriguez. It dares more, is more imaginative, and falls farther. Disturbing Behavior is The Stepford Wives, minus the irony and timing.

For all of that, I like Disturbing Behavior. The writing is overly-self-aware and precious. It gives the actors lines that people only say when they are trying to sound like movie characters. Yet the actors are all good, and they deliver both the dialog and the emotional beats without faltering. When Nick Stahl’s Gavin thinks he’s going to be taken, his desperation is convincing. James Marsden is always good, regardless of the things the script makes him say. He has an ability as an actor to commit to whatever is required of him.

Katie Holmes is, of course, what I watch when I watch this film. Her dialog is some of the most ridiculous, and I giggle at it, but I love it just the same. She says the kinds of things my friends and I said when we were trying to be jaded and disaffected and above it all. (“Sounds razor.” My god, if I had thought to say that when I was really into cyberpunk, you bet I would have gone around saying that. Absolutely, without question.) But the thing I am looking at is the young woman who once had a non-cultist life ahead of her. I kinda wish I knew what happened, there.

The plot of Disturbing Behavior is based on the fear that one’s kids are going to fail. It’s another story of overcontrolling parenting, of doing to your children by force and abuse what one fears can’t be done with persuasion and example. Yet I find the parents in the film portrayed so unsymapthetically, so cardboard, that I don’t care much about their drama and decisions. :makes whatevs hand gesture: This isn’t a tale of struggling parenting, it’s a story of misunderstood kids.

I’ve grown out of that mindset, of feeling that the adult world was hostile and uncomprehending. But I remember it, and I like how Disturbing Behavior renders that view.

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