I am a notorious multitasker. When I watch movies at home, I’m almost certainly working on something else – reviews, website improvements, or admittedly every five minutes Facebook or the news of crazy updates. Lawrence Michael Levines Black bearIt is now a film that demands your attention. And deserved it.
While this isn’t a perfect correlation, I often find that my multitasking behavior dissolves when I am attracted to a movie, and that is exactly what happened Black bear, a strange, addicting, stress inducing thriller that refuses to play by certain rules. The movie seems so simple that it flips the script – and / or its cast, depending on how you look at it – repeatedly in unpredictable ways.
Aubrey Plaza, Christopher Abbott, and Sarah Gadon star as the actress, filmmaker, and his wife, and not necessarily in that order. It is best to respond to this Black bear as blindly as possible, because even if you do, Levine is likely to exceed your expectations with its slippery, ever-changing story.
But the story, crucial as it is, is secondary to the emotions the film evokes, not so much in the characters as it is in you. I went into the movie without knowing what it was about and as expected it just starts and slowly increases the tension from there. But Levine never lets up, never gives you a moment of rest or escape, no matter what the hell this movie is. I used to call it a thriller, but that’s not an exact description. And in the previous sentence I wanted to call it a nightmare, but it’s not a horror film either. Black bear is his own beast, a deliciously crafted mix of drama, suspense and much more.
The cast is up to the task, which is no easy task. Plaza is perfect and in the end it leaves you breathless. She wraps around her character and the character around her, a necessary transformation for what is at hand. Abbott and Gadon are brilliant too, and while much of the emotional weight goes on Plaza, they play with diabolical insights on Levin’s words and intentions.
Black bear is not for everyone, and it’s a movie where the journey may be more satisfying than the bigger picture, but it’s an experience that deserves your attention. No multitasking allowed.
Rating by Erik Samdahl, unless otherwise stated.