Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana, Ashley Aufderheide, Imogene Wolodarsky
Directed By: Maya Forbes
This is a tough one for me to review. There’s some stuff here I liked, and some stuff I didn’t like. In many ways, Infinitely Polar Bear is a difficult move to watch, and definitely not a “feel good movie of the year”.
Infinitely Polar Bear follows Cam (Ruffalo), Maggie (Saldana), and their two daughters Faith (Aufderheide) and Amelia (Wolodarsky). The twist in this family drama is that Cam is manic depressive, and the film begins with him having a breakdown, and working his way back from there. He tries to rebuild the trust he had with Maggie and their daughters. He eventually gets the opportunity to care for his daughters on a regular basis when Maggie gets the opportunity to get her MBA. It’s through this that Cam finds order and structure, yet keeps his daughters lives in continuous chaotic fun.
I’m a big fan of Ruffalo. I’ve loved his work since I saw him break through in You Can Count On Me. I thought he was fantastic in The Last Castle. I’ve been Team Ruffalo since he really started getting notice. For me, this felt uncomfortable. It’s not that he did a bad job, really, but the role never fit him. The dialogue never felt natural. It always felt scripted. He never felt convincing as a manic depressive. I constantly kept thinking he must have stepped into the film after someone else stepped out. I would have loved to see Johnny Depp perhaps tackle this role. Ruffalo felt out of place for most of the film. Also, I can’t remember a film where I noticed a character smoking so much in my life. I felt like I was watching Mark Ruffalo get lung cancer. I think he smoked more in this film than the characters of Mad Men did in an entire season.
Zoe Saldana did a great job though, amidst what I felt was a script that just wasn’t working. The conversations back and forth between people, word choices, everything didn’t work for me. It felt like words were chosen in the way people would choose if they wanted to seem smarter. But no one really talks that way, all the time. No one goes out of their way in their daily lives to really sound like that, do they? It’s one of the things that kept the actors at a distance from their roles.
Also, for 90 minutes, I was restless a lot. I wanted the movie to be over, and it had really just started. That has a lot to do with Infinitely Polar Bear being difficult to watch. In the end, I felt it was semi-rewarding. The last 1/4th of the movie picked up and was a lot stronger than the front 3/4ths. Everything was falling into place, and it ended well. But the first half is hard to watch, and not an easy film to enjoy, especially with Ruffalo seemingly off his game.
I think Saldana isn’t taken seriously as an actress, and she should be. She’s almost supporting in this film, but I would say watch this if you’re a Zoe Saldana fan. The two girls, both are good child actors, but honestly… neither blew me away. We’re not looking at the next Dakota Fanning or anything.
Infinitely Polar Bear is a potentially rewarding drama, if you’re willing to stick with it till the end. Just keep telling yourself its only a 90 minute film, and it gets better.
FINAL GRADE: C