‘Black Bear’ Review

To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Black Bear is a thriller/drama film written and directed by Lawrence Michael Levine. The film stars Aubrey Plaza, Christopher Abbott, Sarah Gadon, Paola Lázaro and Grantham Coleman. The story revolves around a couple hosting an out-of-town actor/director looking for inspiration in her filmmaking. The group quickly falls into a calculated game of desire, sarcasm, 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 factual and fictional.

If indie film had a mascot it would be Black Bear. This film is totally out of the norm and director Lawrence Levine relishes in the opportunity to explore the confusing nature of the nonlinear narrative and the unreliable narrator. The film opens telling one story and then switches to a similar, albeit parallel universe version of the events. This happens abruptly and the audience is never given any reasoning behind why this happens. Therefore, when the film comes to a close you can’t be sure what was real and what was imaginary. This hurts the film overall as it could have been a little more refined so that it made more since for the audience.

In reality due to its weak story the film only has two things going for it. The fantastic cinematography courtesy of Robert Leitzell and the breathtaking performance of Aubrey Plaza. Everything about this film looks and feels remote and creepy. There are major horror vibes reminiscent of the early Friday the 13th films such as the steam fog sitting over the lake, the dark woods in the background of the sole cabin, and the minimal lighting during the night scenes. It all looks good together onscreen and coupled with the minimalistic score, it can give the viewer get an uneasy feeling about what is really going on with the characters.

Aubrey Plaza is great as both versions of Allison with a departure from her more comedic style during Part Two. In Part One of the film Allison is very much like Plaza’s characters in her other films in that she’s confident, cocky, and very snarky. She shows up at Blair and Gabe’s cabin, but we get the feeling that they don’t know each other at all. This makes the situation that much stranger. The viewer is unable to get a grasp of what Allison’s intentions are with her hosts and by the time we start to get into the meat of what’s happening it switches to Part Two. In the second part everything takes place on a film set and “Allison” is now portraying who Blair was in the first part i.e., parallel universe. Very confusing definitely but also interesting. Certain scenes are reversed and we get to see “Allison” now act the part of a scorned wife and it is here where Plaza’s acting chops shine. She is sad and confused and hurt all at the same time. Being the pawn of a game that she doesn’t even know is being played. A role like this great exercise for her if she decides to take any more serious roles in the future.

I give a Black Bear a Normal 6.8/10. The film doesn’t give a clear resolution to the events by the end and it can be very confusing even if you’re paying attention to every detail. If you’re a fan of indie films and Aubrey Plaza I definitely recommend giving this one a try. If not it best not to leave it be.

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