5 August 2018 | Jared_Andrews
Charming, Heartfelt and Exceedingly Creative
'Brigsby Bear' is a dark story told with a light touch. Though much of the material covered is upsetting, it never does more than dip a toe into these waters. A handful of dark jokes are delivered with an "aww shucks" charm that seems bashful about presenting anything too deep. It's more comfortable frolicking with the amusing awkward humor and writing a love letter to quirky creativity.
Without spoiling anything, the plot is a bit difficult to outline. A young man named James (Kyle Mooney) has lived a life of isolation. He knows very little about social cues, popular culture and virtually all common knowledge. One thing he knows everything about is his favorite show (and the only show he has ever seen), Brigsby Bear.
What James doesn't realize is that the show was made only for him, to teach him lessons and to manipulate him. No one else has ever seen it. When it abruptly ends, James wants to make a movie and give his beloved characters the ending they deserve.
James's adaption into a world unfamiliar to him makes for a messy situation, especially for his family. No one knows how to handle it. They all want what is best for James, but none of them are sure what that is. His family tries to impose their interests onto James instead of taking an interest in what he likes.
His new friends understand him better, or at least, they make a better effort to do so. Through these interactions, we see how special James is and how he doesn't need to change just so he can fit in with everyone else. There's a heartfelt message here about acceptance and pursuing passions, even if not everyone understands them.
At times, the story features extremely dark jokes, pushing boundaries. It takes a tremendously upsetting situation and inserts jokes that create such a paradox that my body physically struggled to laugh. I'm not sure what that means. It seems like an indication that the combination didn't quite work. The joke didn't quite land, and the heavy material is left only partially explored.
The film struggles with nuance in the more challenging moments. It's a little hesitant or reluctant to dig deep and make the circumstances hard on the characters. It softens the edges and makes things too easy and too light and too dumbed down. Certain bits of dialogue spell out too much, as if the filmmakers weren't sure enough of their visual storytelling to leave certain elements unsaid.
The story arcs felt a bit underwritten and unearned. A moment of growth in a character simply happens because it's supposed to-we're not shown sufficient reason for it to occur.
Despite the flaws, this is a charming film. I only point out the imperfections because I see great potential. This could have been a classic. Instead, it's merely a likable and unique comedy that will surely have its supporters (I'm one of them). Perhaps Kyle Mooney's next film will ascend to the level of a classic.