Black Bear is a drama thriller written and directed by Lawrence Michael Levine. Black Bear stars Aubrey Plaza, Christopher Abbot and Sarah Gadon. The movie adopts a unique meta-storytelling device that offers an interesting take of the film making process. The film actually consists of two storylines revolving around the principal actors.
It is impossible to demonstrate my full appreciation for Black Bear without going into the story details and thus spoiling the movie. So hopefully, dear reader, you would have already watched the movie if you are reading this review. Fact is, the events of Black Bear all occur within the mind of Plaza’s character who is seen at the beginning of the movie contemplating what appears to be story ideas for her next film project.
This is a subtle detail that might escape attention the first time one watches Black Bear and might only become apparent halfway through when the first story changes track completely! Both stories involved a relational dynamic between the characters played by Plazas, Abbot and Gadon, the traditional ‘love triangle’ which has fuelled dramatic stories for centuries.
The first story finds Plaza visit the home of Abbot and Gadon, a couple expecting their first child. Plaza is a film director and hopes to find inspiration for her next film project. However, her arrival at the lodge stirs up instead insecurities between Abbot and Gadon and things come to a head.
The second story flips the tale by having Plaza and Abbot as a married couple, an actress and director respectively working on a film project critical to their futures. Gadon plays another actress on the set and in a bid to enhance Plaza’s performance, Abbot and Gadon pretend to be having an affair. Predictably, things do not go as planned either.
Both stories are well developed and executed and stand up on their own. While the fact that the stories are really mental exercises of Plaza does undermine their ability to connect with the audience somewhat, this is compensated by the cleverness of the conceptual thrust. But only just. A worthy exercise, in the final analysis.
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