Brigsby Bear (2017) | Duration: 1h 37m | Director: Dave McCary | Writer: Kevin Costello, Kyle Mooney | Cast: Kyle Mooney, Mark Hamill, Greg Kinnear | Country: USA
(warning: mild spoilers!)
Imagine The Disaster Artist (2017), but instead of following Tommy Wiseau, it follows Jacob Tremblay’s character from Room (2015). That’s my first thought going into this film. Granted, Brigsby Bear is lighter, more heartwarming, and much less dark than the films mentioned above. But it’s definitely in the same playing field, which in its execution, I think earns director Dave McCary a props on his debut film.
Brigsby Bear is the story about James Pope, a 25 year old––man? Child?––who grew up in a bunker, after being kidnapped and raised in captivity by two scientists posing as his parents. The father creates an educational children’s TV show called Brigsby Bear, starring the titular bear in which he goes on adventures in distant galaxies and eventually saves the universe while simultaneously teaching the target audience about ethics and mathematics. This show that was made to keep James distracted evolved into an obsession, to an extent where James bedroom is filled with memorabilia of Brigsby. Believing the illusion created by his captors that they are trapped in a wasteland, Brigsby, and the two people he met on the Brigsby Bear online fan forum, were James’ only friends. And he is seemingly content with that.
However, the illusion is shattered when one night, the police raided his home after years of investigation and James is brought back to his real family. His life as he knew it was gone, replaced by strangers and things and places that he never knew existed. Things take a turn for the worse when James found that Brigsby Bear, a show he thought was known and beloved by people all around the world, only existed to him. Lost and desperate, seeing that his connection to Brigsby was all that he had left, James sets out to finish the story on his own.
Something to reflect on from this film is what Brigsby Bear means to James, not necessarily the show, Brigsby Bear itself. Because he had no means of human connection in this new, different world that was not tied to Brigsby, his love for narrative was born out of necessity. It’s not that James is some sort of cinephile or talented artist, but he pushes through because he had to. Now that he’s free from his former constraints, he continues to struggle to forge new connections that aren’t also tied to it. Because it’s so much easier to relate to people, and at the same time, be more literate of your own emotions, through art. And I think that is what Brigsby is to James. As he engages the help of his new friends and family in the making of his Brigsby film, those connections are forged. Creating art through collaboration brings people together, and so does the shared experience of communal viewing and discussion.
In my opinion, this film can be appreciated in multiple levels. On the surface you can appreciate the fun dark-comedy fueled by our main character’s awkwardness, but when you dig a little deeper, there is also the psychological subplot from which you realize that that awkwardness stems from a traumatic event in James’ life, and you can’t help think if he would overcome it. Though I admit, this film tends to sugarcoat the heavier matters, but is genuine enough in its intention for me to be able to look past it. The subtle jab at modern fan culture is also noted. All in all, I just find this film especially kind, and it reminds me to be kind.
Because, imagine how better a place the world would be if people can just like the things they like (given that it’s legal and not harmful or damaging in any way), and let it inspire them. Let it give their lives meaning, and be grateful shall they choose to share it with you. So let this film inspire you.