Black Bear (2020) movie review
Black Bear is a drama/thriller from writer/director Lawrence Michael Levine. The film stars Aubrey Plaza as Allison, a filmmaker who places herself in a woodland retreat looking for inspiration. However once there, she begins to clash with the couple who own the retreat. The film was released earlier this month to a split reception, with critics praising the strong performances and twisted narrative, while the bizarre storytelling and dry tone seems lost on more casual audiences…
I for one thought Black Bear was sublime. For one, the performances go from good to fantastic in the blink of an eye. Black Bear does not strike me as an Oscar contender, but both Aubrey Plaza and Christopher Abbott deliver career bests so far, with Sarah Gadon managing an equally strong performance with just a little less to do. Also there’s a short but very memorable performance from Paola Lázaro that I resonated with perfectly. So performances absolutely are a selling point for this film.
The other, and probably only other real selling point, is the story. It is also the aspect of this film that might break it for some people. The structure of the film is unique, with almost the entire opening act taking place contained in an argument between the three leads. This leaves room for a certain ambiguity by the end that, if you aren’t in the mood to think, might just break the potentially compelling character arc presented. I don’t think it does. I think Black Bear is a really smart film with alot to say, and it says it very carefully. But it also says it through a kaleidoscope, and if that’s not your thing, I understand.
By the end Black Bear felt like I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020), but, you know, good. The tone was consistently unnerving, battling somewhere between an emotional character drama and a calculated thriller. The score worked well, and both the cinematography and editing were wonderfully on point, revealing tidbits to the unknowing audience about the direction of the story. Really my biggest problem with the film is that I probably wouldn’t watch it again. Once you get to the end, you get to let is sink in. I’m not sure you can recapture that feeling with greater understanding the second time around. But overall, I really liked it! The story is captured very well through a strong screenplay and sense of visual direction, and the characters drive the film’s themes and tone through genuinely great performances. So it is certainly not for everyone, but I’d say definitely check out Black Bear if it sounds interesting to you! 7/10.
So Black Bear? Have you seen it? What did you think? And what is your favorite dramatic thriller? Or thrilling drama…? Be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let us know! And if you liked this review and you want to read more like it, be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let us know!
-review by Ryan Prince