Sunday 10 December 2017

Brigsby Bear

Bear Foot In The Dark

Brigsby Bear
2017 USA Directed by  Dave McCary
UK cinema release print.

Warning(ish): Because of the nature of the film, to talk about it adequately means there will be some spoilers but, having said that,
the spoilerage is pretty much what you see in the trailer.

Brigsby Bear is an utterly charming movie about a young(ish) man trying to reintegrate into society after a lifetime of not being able to live in it. It’s also quite funny and extremely moving in places.

As the film opens we meet James (played by Kyle Mooney, who also co-wrote this) who is living a life with his parents played by Mark Hamill and Jane Adams. It’s an existence very reminiscent of the life lead by the children in the family of the film Dogtooth (reviewed here) in that James has been shut off from the outside world and any other people for most of his life. He is lead to believe the air in the world is unlivable due to it being contaminated with ‘Skinser’s Disease’ and, as he gazes out of the dome of his family home with his dad, looking at the large, mechanical bees and robotic fox, he wonders if there’s more to life. He’s a bit of a genius due to his family being extremely educated and he spends his life watching, talking and thinking about the 700 plus (and growing) episodes of the TV show Brigsby Bear. He even posts his theories about the show on the Internet forum to the two or three survivors in the world who also watch the show (or who he thinks to be other people but... they’re not). And that’s his life...

Until the FBI, who have been searching for James since he was abducted as a baby, raid the place and reunite James with the real parents he’s never even known, who live in the much larger, real world with rules and conventions he doesn’t even know about. So he meets, and goes to live with, his mother and father (played by Michaela Watkins and Matt Walsh) and his sister Aubrey (played by Ryan Simpkins). As importantly, he gets to know the detective assigned to his case, Detective Vogel (played by Greg Kinnear) along with some of his sister’s friends including Meredith (who is played by an amazing little actress called Alexa Demie) and Spencer (who is also played at total levels of coolness by Jorge Lendeborg Jr). However, the only thing that James is remotely interested in is finding out what happens in the next, upcoming episode of Brigsby Bear.

It’s then that the true nature of James’ screwed up life hits home when he is told that his ‘dad abductor’ was making all those episodes just to keep him entertained... shooting them at a small studio with an actress who was told it was for a local cable channel. James is distraught but, after he goes on a cinema trip with his new, original dad and is suitably impressed, someone tells him that anyone can make a movie. So, much against his original parents’ wishes (not to mention his psychiatrist),  he recruits various new friends and, with the help of Detective Vogel, who harbours dreams of being an actor and has access to some 'impounded evidence' of props and costumes... he slowly begins to make a movie concluding Brigsby Bear’s adventures as a way of dealing with the world around him.

The film is just enchanting, too, as we see James try to interact with the people in this new world and become accepted, not just by the people close to him but, by people all over the world as old episodes of his VHS collection of Brigsby Bear tapes gain popularity over the internet. The performances are absolutely amazing and the way the camera moves and captures the various scenes is very ‘fly-on-the-wall’ and intimate.

It's a work of art filled to the brim with richly astonishing and emotional moments too. My favourite two would be...

The scene where James tracks down Arielle Smiles (played by Kate Lyn Sheil), who is working in a diner and who played the two ‘twins with power’ in the Brigsby Bear show for the money. The scene in the diner between Sheil and Mooney is really quite moving, as Arielle tries to cope with what she now knows to be the truth of the situation. There’s a wonderful pay off towards the end of the film where she returns for another performance.

The other scene which was quite stand out for me, in a movie which is actually chock full of wonderful moments, is where James goes to visit his ‘abductor dad’ in jail. In a wonderfully emotional scene, Mark Hamill conveys the warmth of someone who knows he did wrong but still loves James as his own son. However, all that matters to James is that he, tape recorder in hand, gets his old dad to record the voice-over narrative in the ‘special voice’ for his new Brigsby Bear movie script... and Hamill’s obvious talents as a voice artist (he’s been voicing animated characters like The Joker in Batman cartoons, amongst other things, for years) are quite evident here.

And there’s not much more I can say about this one, I think. Apart from the fact that it’s easily one of the best movies of the year. For something which has a character who doesn’t have too many options which could segue into a fully integrated happy ending, the film finishes absolutely perfectly with a warm and upbeat, ‘feel good’ ending which certainly does nothing to betray the dark set up and leaves you with a sense of hope for people and communities. A really cool movie and, bearing in mind that it turned out I made up exactly half of the audience numbers on my own on its opening night at my local... one which I hope more people will get the opportunity to experience at some point. Absolutely 100% recommended to anyone who loves cinema. Go see it while you can.

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