Brigsby Bear (2017)
Directed by: Dave McCary
Written by: Kevin Costello, Kyle Mooney
Starring: Andy Samberg, Claire Danes, Greg Kinnear, Jane Adams, Jorge Lendeborg Jr, Kyle Mooney, Mark Hamill, Matt Walsh, Michaela Watkins, Ryan Simpkins
Brigsby Bear is a tale of innocence and closure. A film with some seriously dark undertones, but with a heart and soul so pure that it’s an absolute joy from beginning to end. It’s a rare thing these days to see a film without a cynical bone in its body, even kids films seem to be full of it, and it’s extremely refreshing. The titular character is the result of father figure Ted (Mark Hamill), making a TV show exclusively for James (Kyle Mooney), a young man who has lived a very sheltered life. When the episodes stop coming, James becomes obsessed with finishing off the Brigsby story arc and sets out to make a movie. Due to James’ shut in lifestyle, he’s not very socially adept however, so his interactions with everyone around him are quite naive, but in the most charming way. He chances upon aspiring film student Spencer (Jorge Lendeborg Jr), who he shares his Brigsby tapes with and the two strike up a partnership and get the movie into production.
Kyle Mooney is wonderful as the enthusiastic yet awkward James, with his innocence seemingly rubbing off on everyone he encounters. In other films, this type of character is usually exploited in some way, but here everyone is in it for the love of James or seeing his Brigsby vision come true. One of the more unsettling aspects of this, is Brigsby’s genesis. To go into the details of this would be to spoil things, as the less you know about the main plot, the better, but seeing how Brigsby is a light in the darkness for this wonderful boy is a conflicting combination of utter joy and sadness. On one hand, Brigsby has basically been the one thing that’s always there for James, and on the other, it’s hugely problematic that he’s allowed to still follow his obsession, but this doesn’t stop things being any less than the absolute joy that this film is.
Everything bar a couple of scenes is seen from James’ point of view, and the direction conveys this beautifully. Even the mundane is awe inspiring, as James sees things for the first time. Industrial complexes and the suburbs become warm, welcoming places. The film is accompanied with an equally gorgeous score, which just adds to the awe-inspiring sense of wonder, and gives it an aural glow, which perfectly encapsulates what’s on the screen. The supporting cast are all excellent, who despite being world weary and show concern for James, they go along with it, which makes the film flow without the need for resorting to the cliches and cynicism this sort of story would usually plump for. Seeing everything come together, James’ interactions with new people and his new life is a beautiful and pure journey, which finds wonder in the banal and warmth in even the most unsavoury of characters. Brigsby Bear is full of heart and full of laughs, and a pleasure from start to finish.