Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh

In the Key of Sincerity: thoughts on seeing "Brigsby Bear"

Unusually for me, I saw a film knowing almost nothing about it. I'd gotten this advice about a small movie called Brigsby Bear: 1) it's worth seeing and 2) you should see it with as little knowledge of what happens in it as possible. Curious, I did so: got over to the Laurelhurst last night, where it's been playing, and even tried not to look at the film's poster on the wall.

I liked the film and I'm glad I saw it. And I also wonder how differently I'd have experienced it if I'd seen it by myself, instead of with an audience. Or with this audience.

Sometimes you laugh because, otherwise, you're not sure how else to react. A couple of people, I felt. were laughing that way at Brigsby Bear. The film, though often funny — its star and co-writer is Kyle Mooney of Saturday Night Live, whose work I haven't seen before now — very matter-of-factly tells you at the start You are watching a situation that is, somehow, wrong, somehow "off," and is in fact really messed up. About 20 minutes in, you learn more about how messed up it is, and the rest of the often quiet, often gentle movie is a reaction to that.

I'm being careful not to say anything specific. Much as I did when I reviewed The Truman Show, I want to say very little about what happens in Brigsby Bear. Besides, in most stories the "how things happened" is much more interesting than "what things happened," and that's true here. At times, the film skirts close to creepy situations; I'd feel relieved when it then moved away from what was potentially creepy. It also mostly avoids the biggest possible laughs it could wring from its premise, because that could have harmed the reality of it. (I doubt that if the film's situation ever really happened, it would play out exactly like this, but it feels real — real enough — and that's what verisimilitude aims for.) The film doesn't have big stakes; the film is about getting healthier.

And these people in the audience still were laughing a lot. More than I felt was warranted. Their laughs felt like distancing laughs. Like, sometimes, laughing at it, not with it. That bothered me.

The film's reality, and the film's sincerity, might be too much for some people to take at face value. I wanted, was trying, to accept Brigsby Bear at face value, and I feel good that I did. The film is ingenuous. I love the word "ingenuous." It gets much less use than "disingenuous."

I wanted — maybe needed — to see something ingenuous.

And the "Brigsby Bear Theme" remains in my head.

Edited To Add: I did another entry, with more thoughts (and more spoilers) about the film.

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