fri 19/01/2018

Brigsby Bear review - the healing power of fantasy | reviews, news & interviews

Brigsby Bear review - the healing power of fantasy

Brigsby Bear review - the healing power of fantasy

Tale of boy and imaginary bear is unexpectedly upbeat

Bear necessities: Kyle Mooney as James

Like a bizarro-world echo of Lenny Abrahamson’s Academy-titillating Room, Dave McCary’s endearing indie feature takes a potentially hideous tale of abduction and control and transforms it using the amazing healing powers of fantasy and creativity. James Pope, a fully-fledged bespectacled geek, has been living a strange life of outer-space style confinement in a desert bunker in the midst – or so he’s been led to believe – of an arid wilderness in which the air is too toxic to breathe. His sole entertainment is a crude TV animation series about the intergalactic hero, Brigsby Bear, which is faintly reminiscent of some forgotten non-classic from Nickelodeon.

While you’re still trying to figure out where the hell we are, reality comes screeching across the horizon in the shape of a line of squad cars. Imagine James’s shock and confusion when he’s rescued from his abductor-“parents”, Ted and April, by police, and is returned to a society teeming with stuff he’s never seen – cable TV, smartphones, recreational drugs, Macbooks, young people, sex etc.

Stateless, desocialised James (Kyle Mooney, a Saturday Night Live regular who also wrote Brigsby’s screenplay) is gradually thawed out by interaction with his sister Aubrey (Ryan Simpkins) and her pretty cool friends, who take an admirably laid-back and accepting attitude to the swotty weirdo who has suddenly materialised in their midst. James remains single-mindedly obsessed with Brigsby Bear, which was created exclusively for him by his abductor and is the solitary cultural input he has ever known (though Ted, we gather, also devised a fake pop group called The Beatlers and the animated Terrance the Tiger). When it dawns on James that he can recreate a new improved Brigsby using state-of-the art gadgetry which doesn’t look like the quaint Eighties junk he used to use in his bunker, his horizons are blown wide open and he’s on the way to becoming an internet sensation.

It’s nuts but it works, not least thanks to nifty contributions from Claire Danes as Emily, James’s therapist, and Greg Kinnear as the local police chief who yearns to be Obi-Wan Kenobi and is dying to be in the reborn Brigsby (Kinnear’s neurotic actor-isms as he prepares for his next crucial take are a hoot). The hommages don’t end there – there’s even a role for Mark Hamill as Ted the abductor (pictured above with Mooney). McCary and Mooney might have portrayed him as a black-hearted monster who stole James’s childhood, but instead have added nuances to suggest that he’s more of an elderly lost boy with arrested-development problems of his own. Perhaps their subliminal message is “please give generously to your struggling local indie film-makers”.

 

Perhaps their subliminal message is 'please give generously to your struggling local indie film-makers'

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters