PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Film

'Nasty Habits' Is an Allegory in Search of a Story

Nasty Habits tries too hard to be a Nixonian allegory set in a pseudo-convent, forcing its plot parallels onto places they don't belong.


Nasty Habits

Director: Michael Lindsay-Hogg
Cast: Glenda Jackson, Melinda Mercouri
Distributor: Warner Archive
Year: 1977
US DVD release date: 2014-08-26

Nasty Habits transfers the details of the Watergate scandal into a Philadelphia convent, with Glenda Jackson playing the Nixon role of an icy abbess who secretly tapes everyone. As a satire of Watergate, it feels pointless and cumbersome; it might work better as a satire of the Church by implying that all hierarchies of power can use similar methods. The movie at first feels like such a takedown; it opens by showing the nuns drinking, smoking, swearing, and fornicating with Jesuits. Then, however, the screenplay throws in some exposition between a monsignor in Rome (Eli Wallach) and his "PR priest" (Jerry Stiller) in which they explain that this convent isn't really an official part of the Catholic Church but some bizarre fabricated reactionary order that doesn't recognize the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, and they may end up having to correct it or disown it. So there goes that interpretation.

They even explain that this Philadelphia order is an off-shoot from one in Crewe, England, because the film is based on Muriel Spark's novel The Abbess of Crewe, but why bother? So much of the film induces this sense of "why bother". Why bother to have two seminarians "break in" to the abbey to steal one troublesome nun's love letters, which she keeps in an unlocked box in a public place, and have them come back the next day to be caught? Couldn't any senior nun have taken the letters? Ah, but it's all necessary to parallel Watergate. When your allegory takes precedence over common sense in your main story, you're in trouble.

Another example: Melina Mercouri plays a Kissinger figure who's abroad doing missionary work in various hotspots. At one point, she's surrounded by penguins (a visual pun on nuns), although the abbess claims she's at the North Pole with the Eskimos. After a brief appearance at the beginning, she spends the whole movie offering advice on the phone, none of which is funny or interesting. She's serving a symbolic function only, the effect of which is that she sticks out like an undigested subplot.

The cast is overqualified. Sandy Dennis is the most amusing as a loud, gauche nun (apparently a take on John Dean), surrounded by Geraldine Page (basically Haldeman, according to IMDB, although she's technically in the VP position of Spiro Agnew), Anne Meara (a clueless and accident-prone Gerald Ford), Anne Jackson, Susan Penhaligon, and Edith Evans (dying in the first scene, perhaps to her relief), with a wasted appearance from Rip Torn.

We're supposed to laugh in recognition when the abbess quotes Nixonisms like "But that would be wrong" and "You won't have [me] to kick around any more", just as we're supposed to laugh at that old standby, anyone doing anything while dressed in a nun's garb. The results are clumsy, mainly in script and editing. Director Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who's had a fascinating career, went on to better things, including another nun project in the theatre (Agnes of God ) and co-directing the TV serial Brideshead Revisited.

3

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.