del Rosso Film Review: Poor Behavior

The 2019 NY Indie Theatre Film Festival at the New Ohio Theatre in the Village opened with the premier of “Poor Behavior” (2016) written by Theresa Rebeck, based on her play of the same name. “Poor Behavior” also marks Rebeck’s film directorial debut. Billed as a “dark, dysfunctional comedy,”  Maureen (Heidi Armbruster) and her Irish husband Ian (Alan Smyth) visit their friends Ella (Katie Kreisler) and Peter (Brian Dykstra) for a weekend in the Vermont countryside. Beginning with the aftermath of a dinner where many bottles of wine have been consumed, Ella and Ian are having an argument over the concept of “goodness” that quickly gets personal, with Ian doing most of the insulting. When their respective spouses go to bed, Ella and Ian segue into talking and eventually embracing, interrupted by a jealous Maureen. Things go rapidly downhill from there. 

This is exactly the kind of small, wonderful, character-driven Indie film with a terrific cast, sharp dialogue and plenty of riveting twists and turns that feels entirely original. It is also exactly the kind of film that makes no money in America, for the following reasons: no extreme violence, no blood and gore, no explicit sex, no exotic locales, no big stars. “Poor Behavior” is just a great film. Period. So don’t let the “America” factor deter you. Pretend you are in France, where this film would have had a better chance at being successful. Pretend that it has French subtitles. What you don’t have to pretend is that the film is good. Because “Poor Behavior,” thanks to Rebeck’s direction and writing, cast and crew, is very, very good indeed.