BFI London Film Festival Reviews

Brigsby Bear – Review

There are movies out there that take you entirely by surprise. Whether you researched them or not, you go in with one view on how it’s all going to turn out and come out completely shocked. It could be that the film is worse or better than expected, but most of the time it has touched you in some ways. This often happens with independent films that choose to alter a perceptions like, most recently, Darren Aronofsky’s mother! (because, like it or not, it was different.) Anyway, regardless, going into Brigsby Bear, I had an open-mind, and expected pure insanity.

What transpired was an emotional yet funny 97 minutes that resulted in tears streaming down my face.

Image result for brigsby bear

Directed by Dave McCory, Brigsby Bear revolves around James, a man kept in a bunker by his parents and forced to watch countless of episodes of Brigsby Bear – a fictional, crime fighting hero who also teaches particular lessons about love, life, maths, and, weirdly, masturbation. James has zero contact with the outside world but that comes crumbling down when the compound is stormed by police. As it transpires, James was kidnapped as a baby by Ted and April, who have been masquerading as his adults and keeping him locked away. Reunited with his real family, James has to adjust to a world he hasn’t known…when all he wants to do is watch Brigsby. That may prove most difficult seeing as Brigsby wasn’t a real show but one created by Ted solely for James…

Brigsby Bear is a sweet and enduring film of adaptation and friendship. Yes, the premise in which it resides is a silly sketch-type show  one and yet it never feels flimsy. In fact, within this nugget of story is a film about survival and charm.

This mainly comes from Kyle Mooney as our lead James. Coming from SNL and bit parts in comedies such as Zoolander 2 and Bad Neighbours 2, Mooney effectively transfers to lead here. Encompassing every second of the screen time, he becomes this maladjusted yet still naive character who doesn’t understand the normal world yet longs for himself and Brigsby to be part of it. His ignorance to modern society is played for a few laughs but none too patronising or overtly comical. Around him in support are Mark Hamill as Ted who brings his gravitas to his kidnapper role (and he certainly needs to be in more dramas such as this,) and Greg Kinnear as the friendly police officer who becomes immersed in James’ life.  The characters around James are really special, bringing him much needed kinship in a world he perceives as bizarre. The young high-school students including his sister Aubrey and her friend Spender (Ryan Simpkins and Jorge Jackson Jr respectively.)

Image from Brigsby Bear
There are twee elements to the story but it is immersed in dramatic elements. In fact, Brigsby Bear is more a like an SNL version of Room in which the lead has to adjust after being held prisoner for so long, from such a young age . McCory’s work includes this more visceral moments, no matter how tragic. There are bleak moments against the humour which work entirely well. Most of all, Brigsby Bear has heart: As much as the animatronic cuddle on-screen bear has.

Meaningful, mournful, and magical, Brigsby Bear has a tenderness within the hilarity to make it a must-see event.


Brigsby Bear is out 8th December! 

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