‘Black Bear’ May Stand as the Most Ambitious Film of the Year

We start this off with an image that we will come back to a few times. It is of Allison (Aubrey Plaza) in a one piece, red bathing suit. She gets up and walks into the cabin behind her, going up to a room where she has a journal on the table. The movie is then told in two different chapters. The first one is the bear in the road. Allison shows up where she’s met at the gate by Gabe (Christopher Abbott). He’s there with his girlfriend of Blair (Sarah Gadon). She is currently pregnant and supposed to be on bed rest. There are some issues between them, which presents that he’s controlling and she is fed up with him. Regardless, they’re still together. Heavy emotions, possible past life experiences and pressures of the outside world are all at play for Allison, as the movie takes viewers on a multi-layered cinematic journey. For all of its successful work to bend the mind of the audience through twists, though, the movie really finds its high points in the numerous character actions that play out from start to finish.

The film is rich with moments between characters that range from digging into the dynamics of relationships to the filmmaking process itself. There’s even some dark humor inserted in certain parts. These sequences make for a truly captivating experience. Making so much of this work is Plaza. The actress is absolutely on fire in this picture, giving the best performance of her career so far. Plaza is powerful, giving a vulnerable performance that captures the human condition very well. There are a few scenes where Allison is really pushed to a breaking point mentally and Plaza does impressive work capturing those moments.

There’s so much to unpack whether it be the symbolism, the ambiguous nature of the ending, which part was real and how they relate to each other. And then there’s the gaslighting, the jabs at creatives in charge in Hollywood, or even how frustrating individuals can be.

The cast is very well rounded, too. Gadon and Abbott play the two major supporting characters in the picture, and each is quite good. The number of characters is expanded as the film goes into the second half, too, and the rest of the cast is really on point, even those with just minor roles. The sound design is worthy of praise as well. Certain, subtle sounds are elevated at key points which just adds to the tension. Even something as simple as a crunch from a person biting into a snack in the movie is effective in adding to the atmosphere.

Some dark humour, and plenty of insights into bad behaviour. It’s a provocative, challenging work that shows the amazing Aubrey Plaza in a whole new light.

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