Title: Brigsby Bear
Director: Dave McCary
Starring: Kyle Mooney, Mark Hamill, Greg Kinnear, Claire Danes
Synopsis: Brigsby Bear Adventures is a children’s TV show produced for an audience of one: James. When the show abruptly ends, James’s life changes forever, and he sets out to finish the story himself.
Every once in a while, a film comes around that not only is a pleasurable viewing experience, but also reminds you why you love movies in the first place. Movies can be used in many different ways: A way to pass time; a form of entertainment; escapism; a platform to learn new things; a way to get a different outlook on the world; or simply a way to be inspired. For James, our main character, the show Brigsby Bear is all of this to him. When the show abruptly ends, James is torn apart and broken. How could something he invested so much time in just end? However, what James decides to do is not just sit and gloat about it, but go out and finish the show himself. James’ acts and attitude in this film are very inspiring, which is why he is such a likable and investing character. He does what a lot of us only dream of doing. Brigsby Bear is a very original film that not only speaks about our desires to be creative, but doing what we love, with people who share the same passions.
The film is directed by SNL writer, Dave McCary, and stars SNL cast member Kyle Mooney. Both men have made their name on SNL, but haven’t been given the chance to prove their talents, or speak their voices elsewhere in the film medium; until now. Both a directing debut for McCary, and a breakout role for Mooney, their talents are on full display here. Mooney, who plays the lead James, plays a role simply he was born to play. He is known for playing very awkward, outcast-type characters in the past, but what Mooney does differently with his character, James, is give him heart. There is more to James than simply an awkward outcast. He is quirky, obsessive, vulnerable, and honest in ways that makes him surprisingly very relatable. I see a lot of myself in James, and I think a lot of other people will see similar traits of James to themselves.
The film is full of childlike wonder, in the hands of adults who have actually experiencing things and lived life. And the visuals in this film match that perfectly. Mooney and McCary, who were childhood friends, actually came up with the idea of the film and the idea for Brigsby Bear when they were in 8th grade. In a lot of ways, this film is like a children’s film, for adults.
The film is surprisingly very visually striking as well. However, not in a Blade Runner 2049 kind of way. More of a playful way, but just as creative. There are some wonderful shots throughout this film, but ironically the film is at its best, visually, when it shows clips from the actual show Brigsby Bear. Even the look and names of the characters, and the different props that are used in the show, and throughout the film, are all very unique and authentic. The Brigsby show is very strange, and without spoiling anything, has some very dark tendencies as well. But the movie does not bash the show, or make fun of it, but instead embraces the uniqueness of the show, and it’s ability to inspire others. This film really reminded me of the breakout comedy Swiss Army Man, from 2016, about the farting corpse, starring Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe. Yes, the synopsis is crazy, but after watching the film it left me feeling emotions I never expected I would have before starting the film. My expectations were erased, and I was left with a viewing experience that was totally fresh and emotions that were fully realized. I had the same experience after watching Brigsby Bear as well. It’s so rare nowadays to watch a movie that simply surprises you. Most Hollywood movies nowadays are either too predictable, re-hashed, or are spoiled in the trailer. So, films like Brigsby Bear should be cherished for their originality, not demolished for its silly premise.
Overall, Brigsby Bear is a delightful and daring independent dramedy that not only is quirky and funny, but also very honest and real. The film is full of surprises, and will have you laughing at one moment, and on the verge of crying in the next moment. It is clear this was a passion project for the creators behind this film, because it is full of heart and seething of originality and creativity. It is certainly best to go into this film as blind as possible. You can watch the trailer I posted at the beginning of my review, but that’s it. The less you know about this film, the better the viewing experience will be. Watching this for the first time, I was surprised and shocked at many different moments, and I know you will as well. The writing is strong, with a script that is inadvertently funny, without trying to be a comedy, and unexpectedly heart wrenching, without being too sentimental. I think it is very special, and at the end of the day, reminds us why we love watching movies so much, and creating new things. More indies like this please!