Black Bear: Film Review

Black Bear

Black Bear stars three actors I think are terrific – Aubrey Plaza, Sarah Gadon, and Christopher Abbott – and I went in with high expectations and came away impressed but confused.

This mind-bending drama is told in two parts. In the first chapter, Plaza plays Allison, an actress-turned-filmmaker who goes to a rural retreat hoping to find some inspiration and get her creative juices flowing for her next project. She is the only guest at the lakeside house so is entertained by the owner Gabe (Abbott) and his pregnant partner Blair (Gadon) and a wild drunken night ensues, with Blair accusing Gabe of being attracted to Allison. In part two, their names are the same but their roles have changed – Gabe is now a director and married to Allison, the star of the movie they are shooting at the house. Blair is another actress and Allison is convinced Blair is sleeping with her husband, which makes for more chaos.

To be honest, I don’t think I really understood the film; what was real, what was not, and which version of the trio was the true one. It was confusing and it left me thinking about it for ages after the credits rolled as I kept trying to make sense of it before I finally gave up. Usually, not understanding a film means I don’t enjoy it, so it’s a testament to writer/director Lawrence Michael Levine for making it so compelling and exciting to watch. I loved what I was watching, even though I couldn’t figure out how the two parts fit together. It was far too ambiguous, something which usually drives me nuts.

The film’s biggest strength is the performances. Plaza has been nailing dramatic parts for some time now but she goes above and beyond what we’ve seen her do before here. She gives a stunning powerhouse performance that requires so much emotion and internal rage. She is unbelievably good, particularly in the second half when her character has to act out a scene that hits close to home and she drinks to get through it. Allison runs the gamut of feelings in this chapter – she’s insecure, angry, rude, obnoxious, upset, and vulnerable, to name a few. Plaza gives her all in those scenes and seals the deal on this being her career-best performance.

All three leads have to play two different characters in this film and they pull it off with ease. There is no weak link; they all ace it. Abbott also excels in the second half as the frustrated director trying to get the best out of his lead, even if that means playing mind games to get her into a bad headspace. Gadon comes into her own in the first half as she has a lot of dialogue to sink her teeth into and dominates their drunken conversation about feminism and traditional gender roles.

I connected with the second half a bit more simply because I love watching films about filmmaking so watching all the chaos of getting a scene ready, particularly when an actor is drunk, and then shooting it, was fascinating to me. But that’s not to say I disliked the first half. I was engaged the whole way through and I found the character dynamics intriguing and wanted to know more about them. I also want to give Levine kudos because I think his screenplay was terrific across the board.

Black Bear probably won’t do it for everybody because it’s so puzzling and I would usually be in that boat too, but on this rare occasion, the writing and the performances are so good that they make up for the ambiguity.

On digital platforms from Friday 23rd April

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Possessor: Film Review

Possessor

I had heard so much about Brandon Cronenberg‘s second feature Possessor – and while I can appreciate many things about it, it wasn’t my cup of tea.

The film stars Andrea Riseborough as Tasya Vos, who is a possessor, a contract killer whose consciousness is implanted into another person’s body in order to carry out the assassination. Her boss Girder (Jennifer Jason Leigh) gives her her next job – she is to inhabit the body of Colin Tate (Christopher Abbott), who is dating Ava Parse (Tuppence Middleton), the daughter of John (Sean Bean), the head of a huge corporation, for which Colin works. However, Colin cannot be as easily controlled as some of her previous subjects.

Possessor is an incredibly unique film that will stick with you for hours afterwards. Cronenberg has come up with an effing cool idea and it was exciting watching it play out in all its intense, gruesome glory. This film is not for the faint-hearted – it is extremely graphic and violent, there’s plenty of nudity, and some body horror that truly grossed me out. There are also some weird and experimental visual flourishes to help illustrate some of the inner control struggles.

I also loved the initial set-up of the story and the introduction to Tasya and her dual lives – in the real world with her estranged husband Michael (Rossif Sutherland) and their son and this possessor world; the final scene of the movie; and the superb performances from Riseborough and Abbott, with Abbott particularly excelling in the latter half of his story.

However, there is a portion of the film that totally lost me. I didn’t truly understand what was going on and it felt quite chaotic and muddled as it made its approach to the climax. While I loved the closing scene and thought it was a great way to bookmark the story, I was left wanting more answers and some explanation of what the heck just happened. I would have also loved some more backstory about Tasya and the organisation she works for.

I like Possessor and I certainly appreciate the imagination, the performances, and the cool concept, but I’m just not a big fan of body horror and the ambiguity of not knowing what’s real and what’s not. The story stopped being clear to me as it neared the end and that negated its impact somewhat.

On digital platforms from Friday 27th November

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Possessor: LFF Film Review

Possessor

I had heard so much about Brandon Cronenberg‘s second feature Possessor that I figured it was worthwhile paying for a public LFF ticket to see it – and while I can appreciate many things about it, it wasn’t my cup of tea.

The film stars Andrea Riseborough as Tasya Vos, who is a possessor, a contract killer whose consciousness is implanted into another person’s body in order to carry out the assassination. Her boss Girder (Jennifer Jason Leigh) gives her her next job – she is to inhabit the body of Colin Tate (Christopher Abbott), who is dating Ava Parse (Tuppence Middleton), the daughter of John (Sean Bean), the head of a huge corporation, for which Colin works. However, Colin cannot be as easily controlled as some of her previous subjects.

Possessor is an incredibly unique film that will stick with you for hours afterwards. Cronenberg has come up with an effing cool idea and it was exciting watching it play out in all its intense, gruesome glory. This film is not for the faint-hearted – it is extremely graphic and violent, there’s plenty of nudity, and some body horror that truly grossed me out. There are also some weird and experimental visual flourishes to help illustrate some of the innner control struggles.

I also loved the initial set-up of the story and the introduction to Tasya and her dual lives – in the real world with her estranged husband Michael (Rossif Sutherland) and their son and this possessor world; the final scene of the movie; and the superb performances from Riseborough and Abbott, with Abbott particularly excelling in the latter half of his story.

However, there is a portion of the film that totally lost me. I didn’t truly understand what was going on and it felt quite chaotic and muddled as it made its approach to the climax. While I loved the closing scene and thought it was a great way to bookmark the story, I was left wanting more answers and some explanation of what the heck just happened. I would have also loved some more backstory about Tasya and the organisation she works for.

I liked Possessor and I certainly appreciate the imagination, the performances, and the cool concept, but I’m just not a big fan of body horror and the ambiguity of not knowing what’s real and what’s not. The story stopped being clear to me as it neared the end and that negated its impact somewhat.

Seen at part of the London Film Festival. In cinemas 27th November

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Christopher Abbott quits TV show “Girls”

charlie1

I couldn’t believe this news! Christopher Abbott, who plays Charlie in the HBO show Girls, has quit after disagreeing with creator Lena Dunham over his character’s direction.

At the end of season two, we saw Charlie having a successful career after creating an app and getting back together with Marnie, played by Allison Williams. One, I want to know what Lena wanted to do to Charlie?! Two, how are they going to write out his role?! They can’t ignore it he kissed Marnie and they got back together in his last scene. They are going to have to seriously explain this.

Chris’ rep said: “[Chris] is grateful for the experience of collaborating with Lena, Judd [Apatow] and the entire Girls cast and crew, but right now he’s working on numerous other projects and has decided not to return to the show.”

girls

Luckily, the show had only just entered production for season three so presumably nothing has been filmed yet. Can he quit just like that?! Does he not have some contract that he needs to stick to?! I can’t believe he has been allowed to just walk out, ruining the whole Marnie storyline.

To be fair though, we don’t know what Lena wanted for Charlie. Perhaps we will never know. Lena is the creator and star of the show, Hannah. She also writes and directs some episodes. Judd Apatow is a producer for the show.

I am really gutted about this because Charlie was my favourite male character and seemed like the only nice guy. I was so happy that he and Marnie got back together and now he is out of the show. This is ANOTHER reason not to watch season three, for my feature about that, read here.