“Brigsby Bear” is Wholesome and Original Entertainment

By: Nikolai Robinson

Looking at the names both behind the camera and in front, it would make sense that the underdog indie flick “Brigsby Bear” would turn out to be a solid comedy-drama, but what I did not expect was a thematically complex and slightly dark story about identity and obsession.

Kyle Mooney, whom few might know from his work on Saturday Night Live, plays James, a man who has been living off-the-grid for his entire life until circumstance throws him back into the real world and with his real family. He realizes the Brigsby Bear television show that essentially raised him is merely a homemade fantasy that was made for his own development, recreation and compliance.

(I know it doesn’t make any sense, but that’s because a huge part of the plot is a twist toward the very beginning that I won’t tell you about, because I want you to experience this as I did. Trust me.)

The dramatic catch is that James can’t let go of Brigsby Bear and the world of fantasy that he grew up with. It was all he knew in his 25 years of isolation. So James sets out to become an amateur filmmaker to finish the story of the unfinished Brigsby Bear franchise, recruiting his teenage sister and her friends to help him out.

A lot of the film’s plot is derived from the fish-out-of-water concept. James is completely new to the reality we live in, so he’s socially awkward but lovable- learning the lingo of modern teenagers, seeing a movie for the first time, reciting Brigsby Bear scenes from heart, etc. He comes to be accepted by his family and community, and Mooney does a terrific job at making him an odd but genuinely sympathetic character instead of a comedic caricature.

For people like me (nerds, geeks, etc.),this story really resonates, especially if there was a cartoon or show that you had such a strong attachment to as a juvenile. It makes one question the nature of their own little obsessions, and whether they’re either a healthy part of personal development and identity, or a social hindrance.

The enjoyment of the film really comes from the script co-written by Mooney himself- the nature of the situation James is thrust into is quite tragic, so you can’t help but sympathize with him and his child-like enthusiasm for Brigsby Bear, but you also know that he must let go of Brigsby to fully embrace his new life, so the tension is adequately present throughout.

The delightful ensemble cast is a lot of fun to watch, and consists of those that are typically in comedy roles, with Veep’s Matt Walsh, and SNL’s Michaela Watkins, Beck Bennett andAndy Samberg. Mark Hamill (ironically and perfectly cast as Brigsby’s creator), Greg Kinnear, and Claire Danes all shine in supporting but vital roles. Lesser-known actors Ryan Simpkins and Jorge Lendeborg, Jr. also deserve an appreciative shout-out for playing James’ sister and filmmaker friend.

Director Dave McCary (another SNL alumnus) should also be credited for the thematic development of “Brigsby Bear.” Various shots fill you with feelings of isolation, loneliness, freedom, and wonder at all the right moments. It is a movie about a man making a movie, so there is clearly a lot of love from behind the camera. Give it a chance if you seek originality, appreciate the odd, and empathize with the outcasts. Like me, you might be surprised.

Brigsby Bear = 4/5 Bears

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