Release Date: July 28th, 2017
Cast: Mark Hamill, Claire Danes, Kyle Mooney, Greg Kinnear
Director: Dave McCary
Studio: Sony Picture Classics
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Brigsby Bear is a movie about healing. After James Pope’s life is turned upside down he is faced with endless challenges. Forced to integrate into a world he does not really know, there’s one thing that keeps him steady: his favorite television show Brigsby Bear. The problem? It turns out that the show was cancelled and all he has left are old video tapes and memories. That is the basic premise Brigsby Bear gives to its audience before launching into over an hour of thoughtful exploration into what it means to heal and the importance of having a team along for the journey.
Kyle Mooney’s performance as the main character, James Pope, was equally humorous and heartfelt. According to Mooney, who co-wrote the script, they looked specifically for the inherent humor in the situation and did what they could to keep the film real and grounded. They wanted the film to offer a story that could have been real and they knocked it out of the park. While there were a lot of laughs, none of them were at the expense of good writing. The humor wasn’t forced, which allowed for delightful, organic storytelling.
One thing that stood out was the film’s dedication to truth. The content would have made it easy to exaggerate or over-dramatize what the characters would have gone through, but the writers stayed away from that. Instead they focused on the core of the film: relationships. Growth for James was a collaborative process, only made possible through the parallel growth of his friends, parents, and even Greg Kinnear’s initially prickly Detective Vogel.
The story dealt with a range of people and reactions, which was also refreshing. While James may have been impacted by those around him, he also had an impact. A young man who felt broken and isolated came around and lit the fire of creativity in everyone he interacted with. His troubles, though they were many, ended up being a conduit for new life both for him and those around him. That life was also poured into a single collective goal: bring back Brigsby Bear, and through the filmmaking process he came to better understand his new reality and identity.
It is rare these days that I can go into a comedic film and come out having a lot to chew on, but Brigsby Bear did not shy away from digging deep into the human condition to unearth the beauty of stories, growth, and the healing that can only come through relationships. A stand-out performance from Mark Hamill, who got a chance to flex his voice acting muscles for a new audience, was icing on the cake of an already wonderful movie.
Even if you are not as enchanted by the exploration of the human condition as I am, Brigsby Bear brings a lot more to the table than just the story. Dave McCary and the rest of the filmmaking team took extra care to make sure it was every part as visually stunning as it was deep and heartfelt. It is also worth noting that the creative team not only had to make the movie, but make a movie within a movie through Brigsby Bear, which required a set and props of its own. It was a beast within a beast, and the filmmakers knocked it out of the park.
If you get a chance, see Brigsby Bear when it is released later this summer. It is a perfect mid-summer movie guaranteed to spark a little bit of whimsy and creativity in anyone who watches it. At its core, it celebrates life, creativity, and relationships, so what more could we ask for?