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Brigsby Bear - Film Review

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by Nicholas Gordon (subscribe)
Freelance writer based in Sydney.
Published October 12th 2017
A TV show made for an audience of one
James Pope (Kyle Mooney) is the world's biggest fan of the children's television series Brigsby Bear Adventures. The programme looks like something out of the 1980s, complete with amateur looking sets and lurid colouring - indeed James watches the show on a period VHS machine. But James' fandom knows no bounds: his room is adorned in excesses of Brigsby paraphernalia and it appears his life revolves around the show.

But it's all a little strange. James is 25, far too old for something like Brigsby. But that's not the only strange thing. Turns out James and his parents, April (Jane Adams) and Ted (Mark Hamil), live in a bunker in the desert in Utah. Ted leaves each morning for work only after putting a gas mask on; April and James stay put far underground. But the world hasn't experienced an apocalyptic event, instead Ted and April kidnapped James when he was an infant and removed him from the outside world. His father even created and made Brigsby Bear Adventures solely for James - no-one else has ever seen the show before.

The ruse ends when the cops show up and arrest Ted and April. James is rescued and reunited with his real family, who have not seen him since he was a baby. The family look to absorb James back into the family, with the help of a psychiatrist (Claire Danes) and a detective (Greg Kinnear). But re-integration back into his real family proves difficult - James knows little of the outside world and has trouble explaining the important role watching Brigsby Bear Adventures has on his life, and he struggles with his newly found freedom.

If you're thinking this all sounds pretty odd, you'd be pretty right. Brigsby Bear was directed by Dave McCary and is a strange and original film. It focuses on the difficulties James experiences as he returns to his natural family, but it's more about how missing Brigsby is a challenge that seems insurmountable for James. He just can't give up something that is so much a part of him, no matter how it came about.

So James persists and instead of turning his back on Brigsby (as his real family wants him to), he tries to share his love of the show with his new family and friends. That's when the film turns a little soft and smooshy. From such a strange and compelling opening premise, the film sputters out, happy to be cheerful, without really saying anything. But even though the film's subversive promise is largely unfulfilled, it has its moments. If nothing else, it will be unlike any other film you see this year.

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*Nicholas Gordon was invited as a guest
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Why? For Brigsby the bear
When: In cinemas from October 26
Where: Cinemas nationally
Cost: Varies
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