Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Film: 'Brigsby Bear'

Were it not that I thought this original story had some potential, I might have otherwise given this a miss. Bit of a let-down then, that despite starting well, I felt any sustaining interest was largely squandered, most notably in an unashamedly crowd-pleasing finale.

Kyle Mooney (also one of the co-writers) stars as a twenty-something kidnap victim who was taken as an infant by a married couple (Mark Hamill and Jane Adams) who raise him as their captive son. One presumes that they took him because they couldn't have children of their own - it's not explained. He's brought up to think that the air outside their isolated home (filmed in Utah) is toxic, he only being allowed out to go and sit on the roof staring in the night at stars and surrounding mountains while wearing a gas mask. His only window onto the 'world' is a contrived one that his 'parents' have made for him in their own warehouse by creating, with volunteer 'actors', a TV show, 'Brigsby Bear's Adventures', which he replays over and over on VHS video tapes - with the 'Bear' being a kind of Superman figure battling on behalf of the planet against an evil face-in-the-sun - with grottily primitive (and laughable) special effects - very 1950s - all of which he laps up with unconditional belief in its veracity! Then the police (led by Greg Kinnear) track him down, return him to his true parents (Matt Walsh, Michaela Wilkins) with his never-seen teenage sister (Ryan Simpkins) now 25 years later, and his kidnappers are clapped in prison.
The story is a tale of how he copes in adjusting to realising that what he'd been told about the world was a lie, and his utter incomprehension that others did not know of this Brigsby Bear TV programme. His social awkwardness on encountering others is evident and understandable, though everyone is aware of him through his release from his captors having been shown widely on TV news. This also makes others feel sympathetic towards him and his clumsiness in etiquette is never a cause for outright hostility, more one of curiosity, some amusement, and tolerance. His status as adult virgin is also, rather predictably, explored.

With that big papier-mache bear head (just one of a large number of the TV shows' props), I thought there might be some echoes of 2014's 'Frank' (Michael Fassbender) - but that earlier film was far superior to this.

This seems to be director Dave McCary's first feature film. I kept thinking that he was going out of his way to take the easy route and avoid challenges, particularly with that ending which I've mentioned.

Though occasionally silly, it's not a poor film by any means, though it does come within a whisper of being cloyingly sentimental, without actually falling right into it. I only wish it had been better than it's turned out...............5.5.


  1. I thought this film was released a while ago? I think it was in theaters here months ago. I was looking back to your review of Call me by your name. That is just being released here, I was very interested in a gay man's point of view. I appreciate your honesty, it will keep me from having too high of expectations. I wonder if the hype is similar to the Broke Back Mountain effect, straight people raved about it, while gay people were not as excited. Mostly because we had already been watching gay movies for years by then. I think the age gap is a little awkward, I think especially now, it would be weird to have a movie about a relationship between a 17 year old girl and grown man.

  2. I've just checked, STIM, and 'Brigsby' was indeed released in August in Canada, but only last week in the U.K. Conversely, 'Call Me....' was released here two months ago but has only just come out in Canada.

    I'm one of those (many?) gay people who DO rave about 'Brokeback', thinking it a very fine film on just about all levels. aside from the gay angle. I was rather more surprised by those non-gays who didn't appreciate it solely by dismissing its gay aspect as though that was its most important quality. All the critics, or nearly all, seemed to rate it highly or very high.

    In current climate of adult-adolescent (or lower) sex, any portrayal of non-consensual acts, or even consenting but forced/persuaded, is going to be problematic. I'm not sure if it'll ever get back to the stage where a film like 'Lolita' can be made again. Mind you, that itself may well be argued as being a healthy advance.

    Thanks for your visit here and comment, which is much appreciated.