“Brigsby Bear” Endears: A Film Review

Posted: August 30th, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema | No Comments »

One thing learned from studying the beloved films through the decades is that serious flaws don’t necessarily affect how a movie becomes a cherished classic.

Whether it’s Preston Sturges or Clint Eastwood or Quentin Tarantino or whomever, perfect craft isn’t necessary. Plot holes. Implausibilities. Lack of continuity or explanation. Sometimes it simply doesn’t matter.

A movie, a character, a scenario can reach out and touch, despite glaring imperfections.

So it is with the Dave McCary-directed “Brigsby Bear,” a preposterous bit of fluff really, but one so full of charm and hope that’s its many shortcomings are but an afterthought.

Kyle Mooney is James, a thirtysomething naif, who is rescued by the authorities from a couple who kidnapped him as a youth, and kept him living in hermetically sealed seclusion, under the guise that the air outside was toxic.

To keep his attention and maintain dominion, they somehow create a clever TV series, “Brigsby Bear,” hundreds and hundreds of episodes which intoxicate James. To the exclusion of just about everything else, even after he is freed and reunited with his real family and experiences legitimate life.

That the film’s creators come from Saturday Night Live is ever on display. The movie plays like a series of related sketches. With great leaps of time and situation, to work they require an audience that doesn’t care about the holes left unexplained.

Like, for instance, why and how the kidnaping couple, Ted and April (Mark Hamill and Jane Adams) took James? And then created this ongoing Brigsby Bear TV series, with its fantasmagoria and legitimate life lessons? And that’s but one example of what’s left out, the inclusion of which might have given the film more substance, some back story for context.

But such is the guileless manner of Mooney’s performance, that one is drawn in by his innocence and intention to develop a life around his obsession even after reentering the world.

He decides to make a movie of “Brigsby Bear,” after his first cineplex experience. Using immediate friends he meets at the first party he attends with his real sister (Ryan Simpkins), despite the fact that he gets drunk for the first time and is given a psychedelic for the first time and has his first sexual experience in an upstairs bedroom, and hallucinates in the yard before passing out, all on the same evening shortly after his rescue.

Understand what I’m saying about implausibilities.

Claire Danes appears as a strident but clueless therapist, attempting to acclimate James to the world, while intending to free him from his obsession. It’s an underdeveloped plot scheme, merely there, I suppose, to add a hint of tension in what is essentially a fairy tale.

Oh yes, there’s a policeman and wannabe thespian, Detective Vogel (Greg Kinnear), who ends up acting in James’s movie.

There is one exemplary scene, most touching, and one that actually plays out realistically. James tracks down the young woman who plays Arielle (Kate Lyn Sheil) in the Brigsby series, with whom he is smitten. She’s a waitress, a single mom. She’s not sure quite how to react to James intense attention.

But the rest is mostly improbable. So, as I’m sitting in the theater, sucked into this absurd framework, conscious of every leap of faith I and every viewer must make, I couldn’t stop smiling.

Go figure. I leapt. Willingly.

The credit goes to Kevin Mooney, whose character is lovable, whose ultimate joy is contagious, regardless of how unlikely any such series of events would be.

— c d kaplan

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