Black Bear (CIFF 2020)

Black Bear is the type of movie you’ll want to watch more than once. It’s split into two main segments, and once you see the second you’ll want to re-watch the first. To say exactly why would be to spoil the fun but suffice to say that the mirrors and potential recontextualization will make it even more enjoyable than it is on the first go-round—and it’s already a ton of fun. Writer-director Lawrence Michael Levine has turned what could have been a fairly pedestrian project into a deconstruction of that potential and an incredibly entertaining moment-to-moment experience.

The setup here sees Allison (Aubrey Plaza) heading to a lake house run by Gabe (Christopher Abbott) and Blair (Sarah Gadon). Allison is a filmmaker working on her next project. Gabe and Blair are expecting but are not married. The first half or so of Black Bear is mostly just these three characters talking. The conversations are laced with barbs, constantly attempting to provoke another character into a reaction under the guise of friendly banter. It’s wonderful. Then the midway point hits and the movie changes completely, but still works. It’s a risky gambit but it pays off and turned Black Bear into something even more than just darkly comedic indie comedy.

It’s after watching the second half to its conclusion that you’re able to put the puzzle pieces together. You’ll probably get a sense of what Black Bear is trying to do as the second part is playing but it keeps adding on until the finale. Elements mimic or mirror the first half, they recontextualize it, they make you wonder what’s real and what’s not—and what the film wants to say about them. And it all works! Black Bear is a delight.

Conclusion: Black Bear is a darkly funny experimental puzzle of a movie and it’s a wonderful thing to experience.

Recommendation: If you like indie movies or dark comedies, you need to see Black Bear.

  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10

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