September 24, 2020

VIFF 2020 | Aubrey Plaza Escapes from 'Black Bear'

"I've been lying since the second I got here."
Aubrey Plaza Christopher Abbott | Black Bear | VIFF 2020
Vancouver International Film Festival
VIFF 2020—Writer/director Lawrence Michael Levine takes a cabin in the woods approach to his twisty relationship psychodrama Black Bear. Essentially a single-location three-hander starring Christopher Abbott and Sarah Gadon as a couple, Gabe and his pregnant partner Blair, who rent out their picturesque Adirondack lake house to frustrated filmmaker Allison (Aubrey Plaza), the basic indie feature revels in its sharp-tongued dialogue and intimate performances.

Halfway through after more than a few uncomfortable yet highly relatable infighting between the trio, the film shifts narratives into another hyperrealistic scene with the same exact setting and actors but new yet somewhat familiar characters. We follow another breakneck, almost real-time clinic of close-range acting being documented.

Levine's darkly comic sensibilities layer the snapshot of contemporary millennial life as adults through potent subtext. How the arresting film reinvents itself abruptly is highly original and makes its relevant material all the more poignant. The unique talents of Plaza, Abbott, and Gadon are highlighted so sharply in different ways perfectly complementing each other's strengths mostly through tensely-paced bickering so deftly.

Black Bear is a winning exercise in character investment and performance-range from its three main acting talents. Levine's knack for imagining both hyper and surreal situations focused on frustrated artists shine through its scenic getaway location.

Black Bear screens virtually at the 2020 Vancouver International Film Festival online as part of the Contemporary World Cinema series and is available to stream until October 7th (in BC only). There is also an Actors in Conversation livestream with Plaza, Abbott, and Gadon on September 30th.

More | YVArcade / AV Club / EW / Indiewire

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