Grin and bear it

Kyle Mooney in Brigsby Bear (IMDB)

In its bizarre clash of naivety and cynicism, all set against an unusual but sweet coming-of-age tale, Brigsby Bear is a unique and winning film.

In the film, a man in his mid-20s finds out that his entire existence has been a lie. The people he calls Mum and Dad are really his abductors. The protective bunker that he calls his home is really his prison. The television show that he watches obsessively is really a homemade blend of propaganda and educational tool.

James (Kyle Mooney) has lived in an underground bunker his entire life, convinced that the outside world is a toxic wasteland. His “parents”, Ted (Mark Hamill, making his contentious character paradoxically likable) and April (Jane Adams), are academics, home-schooling James so that he can help them solve a fabled mathematical conjecture.

James’ life has a defined rhythm – each day, he completes his chores, participates in physical conditioning and sits through his lessons, before sitting down to compulsively rewatch and analyse any of the 734 episodes of ‘Brigsby Bear Adventures’ that Ted gets delivered on VHS tapes from the outside world.

One day, the FBI descends on the family’s bunker, arresting Ted and April and liberating James. They take James to a local police station, where Midwest cop Detective Vogel (Greg Kinnear, terrific) explains that Ted and April were not his real parents, and that much of James’ understanding of the world is utterly off the mark. Before long, Vogel lets James go home with his birth parents, Greg (Matt Walsh) and Louise (Michaela Watkins), and his sister, Aubrey (Ryan Simpkins).

James’ rudest adjustment to life outside the bunker is heralded by his realisation that ‘Brigsby Bear Adventures’ is not the global phenomenon that he thought it was, but instead a TV show made by Ted for an audience of one. The psychologist that Greg and Louise take James to see, Emily (Claire Danes), insists that James forget Brigsby, a powerful vestige of the painful crime committed against their family.

However, James has spent much of waking life contemplating Brigsby and his eternal struggle to defeat his nemesis, Sun Snatcher, and cannot let go so easily. Instead, James enlists the help of Aubrey and his newfound friend, Spencer (Jorge Lendeborg Jr, a promising newcomer), to make a Brigsby Bear film to finish Ted’s long-running, home-grown saga.

This is a strange and lovely little movie. It is a melancholic rumination on growing up, on life, and on the impact and role of popular culture.

– Review by Callum Ryan, ACOFB

Brigsby Bear Starring: Kyle Mooney, Claire Danes, Mark Hamill, Greg Kinnear, Andy Samberg, Matt Walsh, Michaela Watkins. Directed by Dave McCary. 109 minutes. Rated M (Sex scenes and drug use). In cinemas October 26.


Brigsby Bear (ACOFB)


2017 Film Reviews (ACOFB)

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