Sometimes to tell a good story that lens has to turn inwards…
Black Bear is an interesting little mind screw into the creative process and how fiction gets pulled from reality in some pretty insidious ways.
At a remote lake house in the Adirondack Mountains, a couple entertains an out-of-town guest looking for inspiration in her filmmaking. The group quickly falls into a calculated game of desire, manipulation, and jealousy, unaware of how dangerously convoluted their lives will soon become in the filmmaker’s pursuit of a work of art, which blurs the boundaries between autobiography and invention.
From Actor/Producer/Writer/Director Lawrence Michael Levine; Black Bear is a delicious and probably at least semi auto biographical dive into the creative process and how emotionally manipulative it can often be.
Obviously there’s a few things here that are taken to extremes, but that’s why it all works so damn well. Levine jumps into the deep end and really pokes fun at how things are perceived from the outside looking as well as in the own mind of the creative person. In splitting it up into essentially two halves of the process we really get something that is managing to be both satirical yet nearly documentarian in how it all unfolds. He’s mocking the process in some ways but also demanding it be respected in others by crafting it starting out as a drama with some exaggerated yet still very believable interactions while the second half of it all unfolds the manipulation and drama that can happen inside the process of movie making. The second half of it all feels electric because you know that some of these little side stories and dramas while on set are more than likely pulled from real life and it shows the extreme of the creative process in a really interesting way that also kind of fucks with your head, which is where the magic in the movie lies.
It’s all a little meta, and certainly a little self-involved but it encapsulates the emotional price of great art that needs to be paid in one way or another. It’s the philosophical cry of the artist, be it ones working on a studio level or in the ditches on an indie level and the kind of experience that you just have to appreciate. Rarely do things get to be so showy, yet deeply philosophical while taking the piss out of itself at the same time, it’s a marvel to bear witness too thanks to some really remarkable performances.
It’s sad that there won’t be enough people to see Aubrey Plaza in a performance that is more awards worthy then you’d probably expect. She’s basically playing herself, but at both extremes to a truly exaggerated point and she’s chewing the scenery at every turn with unabashed glee. She’s funny, pathetic, terrifying and 110% compelling for every minute she shows up on screen. It’s what every character is doing in this film and Sarah Gadon matches her at every turn where it’s needed while Christopher Abbott really gets to play in an emotional middle ground with everything that happens in this film. These three actors effortlessly bounce off each other as they dive into a very meta-rabbit hole that you can easily get lost in and it’s a marvelous thing to watch.
Black Bear is the kind of movie that really finds something daring in the ideas that really seem simple from first glance, but are more and more compelling the more time you get to spend with them. Black Bear needs it’s audiences to let go and enjoy the frenetic nature of the process of telling a story, and when you do that you won’t be disappointed.