London Film Festival: Brigsby Bear

Kyle Mooney in Brigsby Bear.

Kyle Mooney in Brigsby Bear.

Two years ago, there was Room. This year there’s Brigsby Bear.

Director Dave McCavy takes us on the hilarious and very unusual journey of James (Kyle Mooney) who was abducted by a fantasy-loving and mathematically savvy couple when he was only a baby and who is found by the police at 25 years old.

I’m so glad I didn’t read anything about the film before going to see it: during the first ten minutes, I was just mystified. There we are, in a sort of bunker in the desert and we meet the Mitchum couple that treats their grown son like a child, and teaches him about the dangers of curiosity and the toxicity of the outside air. This information is largely communicated by video cassettes of “Brigsby Bear”, a character fabricated and brought to video format by Ted Mitchum (Mark Hamill). Despite the strangeness of this home and the absolute nerdiness of its inhabitants, James seems to be doing just fine and I was wondering what on earth was going on!

Soon enough however, the FBI shows up and it is revealed to James that his whole life has been a lie. He is brought back to his real family, and something incredible happens: he does not show expected scared and closed off personality traits: he is ready to live! Thanks to his sister’s friends and Detective Vogel (Greg Kinnear) who enjoys his company a bit too much, he learns a whole new way of speaking (he keeps using the expression “it’s dope as shit” incorrectly), adapts to his surroundings and is highly passionate about life and humans.

This is a piece for film lovers and indie filmmakers: after James is faced with the fact that his hero Brigsby is fraudulent, he decides to create the sequel to the show in a movie of his own, after quickly discovering that it is possible to produce films – all you need is equipment and people! This is a love message to producing with your friends, making it work and taking risks along the way. James borrows all the books he needs about directing a movie and off he goes with his new friend group!

In one special scene between James and Spencer (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), I almost thought the latter was going to steal the Brigsby idea after turning the video cassettes into successful YouTube videos. When Meridith shows interest in hooking up with James, I was also afraid she would be using him. It turns out, everyone around James is intoxicated by his positivity and simple matter of fact conviction that you just have to do what you love, that’s why they stick around him! Nice and genuine people are fun to watch.

As months progress and the Brigsby movie project takes over James’s life, his family and psychiatrist (Claire Danes) are worried that he is hanging on to his past life and can’t seem to fully connect with him. His father asks him to shoot some hoops, but James is just “really busy with [his] movie today”. Later in the film, his parents decide to help him finish his movie. We learn that despite how kooky someone may seem, sometimes the best thing is to go with their beliefs and dreams to create connection and help them. I believe James needed his film project to find a kind of closure from, as he calls them, his “old parents”. In the process, he learns his love for film and remains completely ignorant of the fear of crushed dreams.

This is a different take on the aftermath of child abduction. Instead of going for the gloomy and life-shattering aspect of it, it shows how everyone tries to cope by staying positive and welcoming. The result is a lovely, albeit slightly wacky, comedy and ode to friendship and creativity.

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