BFI London Film Festival: Brigsby Bear

Brigsby Bear
Brigsby Bear
Directed by Dave McCary
Starring Kyle Mooney, Greg Kinnear, Matt Walsh, Michaela Watkins, Mark Hamill, Ryan Simpkins, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Claire Danes, Jane Adams, Kate Lyn Sheil, Alexa Demie, Beck Bennett, Andy Samberg
Screening at LFF October 4th, 5th, 10th, 2017

by Joanna Orland

Brigsby Bear is an absurd movie that takes itself very seriously. Good Neighbor and SNL alumnus Kyle Mooney takes the lead in the film as James – a young man who’s spent his life unwittingly held captive by a couple pretending to be his parents (Mark Hamill and Jane Adams). His fake parents had created an elaborate lie to restrict James’ contact with the outside world, going to the extent of making a TV series called ‘Brigsby Bear’ to subdue and control him.

A strange premise, and one that will undoubtedly be compared to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Brigsby Bear takes a more sappy approach to the material. Once James is rescued from his captors and returned to his real family, there are a lot of heartfelt moments accompanied by a sappy piano score as he adjusts to his new life. There is exploration of acceptance and celebration of creativity in the film, which is lighter on laughs than you’d expect from such an amusing ensemble.

While the laughs are infrequent, they are indeed there. A few very funny moments are scattered throughout the film, but the more maudlin tone dampens how funny you’ll find Brigsby Bear on the whole. With such an excellent comedic cast and absurdist material, I’m very surprised that Brigsby Bear didn’t go for more of a slapstick style of comedy, along the lines of Lonely Island’s latest Pop Star: Never Stop Never Stopping. The material is there to go full absurdist, and I have to say that I’m disappointed they didn’t play it up. Especially with both Lonely Island and Lord and Miller (The Lego Movie) as producers.

In spite of not playing into the comedy of the premise as much as they should have, these comedians have produced a heartfelt dramedy with some genuine laugh-out-loud moments. A fun and touching film, Brigsby Bear is much more sincere than you’d expect.


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