Starring: Kyle Mooney, Matt Walsh, Michaela Watkins, Mark Hamill, Ryan Simpkins, Greg Kinnear, Claire Danes, Jane Adams, Jorge Lendeborg Jr, Beck Bennett, Andy Samberg
Directed By: Dave McCary
Plot: Brigsby Bear is a children’s TV show icon. Kyle Mooney plays James, a 20-something who is obsessed with Brigsby Bear. That’s all you really need to know.
What Works: I had heard from some people who saw the film at Sundance that not knowing much about this film actually makes for a more rewarding experience. I actually knew very little about this film going into it. I had no idea what it was actually about, and because of that I was experiencing things at the same time as James, which is the entire point. You grow to sympathize and understand him more, because you’re going through life together. That being said, this is a very original, very weird, very good film. It’s honestly one of my favorite films of the year, if not my favorite. I love this film. It moved me. I was captivated. I was fully invested in the characters and the story, and I really didn’t think I would be. Looking back on it, this is a very weird movie at times, but I was so into it. This is the kind of film that one wrong decision could have ruined the whole thing. But the film is expertly directed by Dave McCary, who keeps the tone perfectly on the balancing beam the entire film. It never dips too far into parody or comedy, nor does it ever get too heavy for its own good. It remains a perfect balance of comedy and drama, of quirk and reality. I think people will relate to James on a very fundamental level, and the films overall arcing theme about following your dreams is a universal theme that reaches everyone. I think in a weird way this is a family film that parents with older kids will enjoy. For parents, it’s about really loving what your kids love, and accepting them for who they are… no matter what. Kyle Mooney is not one of my favorite SNL players. However, he’s perfect here. I would seriously consider him for an Oscar nomination, because I can’t imagine anyone else in this role, and handling it the way he did. He manages to make his character sympathetic the whole time, no matter how weird the circumstances. You’re rooting for this guy, and he’s a very atypical protagonist with a very odd and unfortunate dream. But he pushes toward his goal, no matter what, with the unwavering support of his friends. Mark Hamill is great in this too. It’s his best work (on screen) since Star Wars. No shit. It’s an actual dramatic performance from Hamill, an actor that casting directors rarely take seriously. But it’s a role that was tailor made for Hamill, and he knocks it out of the park. Also, Matt Walsh has a scene that genuinely moved me, and I was surprised by the depth he brought to his role, as does Greg Kinnear, who is also very good. I left the theatre knowing one thing for certain. I absolutely MUST see this film again. I want to show it to everyone I know.
What Doesn’t Work: I usually come up with one or two minor things that didn’t work for me, but I can’t think of a single thing that didn’t work for me in this film. I bought the whole thing. The whole insane story.
Final Word: Please go see Brigsby Bear. It’s a great little film that celebrates originality in storytelling, and it what indie filmmaking is all about. Telling a great story that no one else has told before, especially one that would normally be avoided by a mainstream distributor. It is one of the best films of the year, and instantly became one of my favorite films of all time. I can’t wait to buy this on Blu-Ray and watch it again and again.
Final Grade: A