Holy pickled beets, Black Bear!
Allison (Aubrey Plaza) is a filmmaker who’s treating her writer’s block to a remote lake house retreat. There she finds a young, pregnant couple who have perhaps been living in isolation a little too long. Gabe (Christopher Abbott), a musician, and Blair (Sarah Gadon), a former dancer, seem to actively loathe each other; it’s an awkward situation I would never choose to take part in but Allison doesn’t just stay, she picks at the scabs. She even gets in a few fresh jabs herself. These frustrated artists release on each other with pretentious arguments. It’s awful for Gabe and Blair’s relationship but apparently that’s a sacrifice Allison’s willing to make, baby on the way or no.
That’s where Allison’s little game of muse-inducing desire and jealousy takes a turn for the decidedly meta. Blurring the line between autobiography and invention, the film divides itself between two chapters – perhaps both the inspiration and its result. Clearly the bears in the woods have dark companions.
Watching this film is like getting to peek behind the curtain at the Wizard of Oz manipulating all his levers and pulleys. It basically deconstructs itself right in front of us and we get to decide how much of it is fact or fiction, and where exactly it turns into a work of imagination. It is certainly an act of ringing art out of pain, telling the story in a brain-teasing sort of way. Writer-director Lawrence Michael Levine enjoys playing with us, and I admit, the game is addictive.
Props to Aubrey Plaza, who has transformed herself from prime time cable sitcom star to veritable art house indie queen. She has sought out many brilliant, risky, offbeat roles over the years, but this is one suits her and stretches her in new and fascinating ways. Her dark and caustic seems tailor-made for the part, which is actually at least two parts, subtly defined, and maybe more. Black Bear is a bit of a mind-bender, definitely not straight-forward story-telling, perhaps not to the taste of all, but a near-perfect morsel for true cinema lovers.
Available in select Canadian theatres as well as
On Demand and Digital on Friday December 4th, 2020.
Canadian theatre openings on Dec 4th:
Kingston, ON – The Screening Room
Sudbury, ON – Sudbury Indie Cinemas
Ottawa, ON – Mayfair Theatre
Calgary, AB – Canyon Meadows Cinemas
Leduc, AB – Leduc Cinemas
Wetaskiwin, AB – Wetaskiwin Cinemas