Black Bear (2020) Poster

(I) (2020)

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This is what I watched...
hpmerten-128 December 2020
Warning: Spoilers
Maybe it's just me, and I'm reading more into this than there is, but this is what I saw in this movie. The only "real" part of the movie is Aubrey in the red swimsuit going from the dock to the room with the window to write her movie. Everything else is the early drafts of her movie that she is writing. She starts over at least three times during the movie. Each time we see her in the red suit it's the beginning of a new draft.

The "first" actual draft, when she is shown first arriving at the cottage in the Uber, the dialog is horrible and forced just like an early draft. The characters are constantly changing as she is writing them, so it feels convoluted and wandering. And it's supposed to. She eventually writes herself off a cliff that ends with the black bear. Then Aubrey is back at the dock in the red suit to start another draft. This is probably her morning ritual to start the writing process each day.

This time they are shooting a movie. The director is dumb and cringy at first, but slowly she writes him as a brilliant director eliciting a great performance from his wife while flirting with her costar. The movie scene within the movie has some great performances, but runs into such a favor pitch that it goes off the rails as well, it it's better that the previous draft. Then she's back at the dock, ready to start the next draft...

We are watching the evolution of a written script. It's like the director shot each draft of the film script he's been writing and showed it all to us...

I loved it...
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BB Explained
bryandbusiness11 December 2020
Warning: Spoilers
I noticed a lot of bad reviews because the film was confusing or pretentious. I felt the same way as soon as the credits rolled. But then I think I figured it out and found a deep sense of satisfaction and appreciation for the story.

Here goes: Part Two is real life. All these things happened to Aubrey Plaza's character (Allison). She was an actor with a manipulative director husband who cheated on her. She catches him in the act but is diverted by a black bear - seemingly ominous but a bit of a MacGuffin. (In part because there's only been one black bear fatality in NY in the last 100 years.) The next morning after a swim she has a clear head and comes up with an idea for a film. Part One is that film. She gets to star in it as the other woman - a version of Blair in her real life. She also got to increase the stakes with a pregnancy and heighten the drama with the unfortunate miscarriage, all the while painting Gabe - the stand-in for her husband - as a total piece of garbage, not to mention further vilifying Blair and absolving herself with the characters.

The order of parts makes it confusing and the actors playing the characters obscures the intent. I also can't account for the name of the films - the one they make in Part Two and the one she writes on paper in the final moment. But if it was too nicely wrapped up in a bow, that would make it less satisfying when you piece it all together. It's a little bit of a Fight Club moment. If you hate the film because it seemingly makes no sense, try out this theory and you may appreciate it more.

Also, Aubrey's performance was great. I thought that watching her meta-breakdown during the final filming scene through her husband and the film crew's eyes made it even more powerful. Aubrey was acting as Allison acting but informed by Allison's real-life. Just amazing.

Anyway, I hope my theory stands up. Feel free to correct, dispute, or add on.
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Aiming For More Than It Could Handle
Blk_Ne19012 December 2020
I knew going into this movie that it was going to be allegoric and I honestly love that in a movie when it is like a puzzle that you have to pick apart and find the meaning of like many Charlie Kaufman films. But I honestly just couldn't wrap my head around this. I looked up the meaning after and was like "oh that is sort of cool" but I don't think I would ever got there on my own.

I know it had some good ideas but they just didn't get me to where it wanted me.

Aubrey was great as always. She was the best part for me I guess.

I think I wish the meaning was a little looser and more in the background or even tighter and was more of a clear picture.

It will probably click for some people but it just didn't for me maybe I just want paying enough attention or something but then again I'm not sure because I was mostly confused.
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The Bear Means Nothing
Fiahm4 December 2020
Warning: Spoilers
A woman starts writing in her journal two different stories featuring the same three people.

The first half of this is well done, building the tension and our curiosity with some sharply observed portrayals of a strained relationship and a third party entering the battleground. Good acting and dialogue, but it builds up to nothing unexpected and there's not a meaningful enough payoff.

Then the second half begins, and the story now moves to a film set and similar emotions are played out, though to no clear or satisfying end. The three leads all act very well, and Aubrey Plaza is particularly powerful, but the acting really is all this film has to offer. The rest is only meandering self-indulgence: there's no "there" there, and I'm here to tell you the bear - which appears onscreen for about 4 seconds total - means nothing.
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The hell?
shawnna7775 December 2020
The acting was actually beautiful, well done! Um, plot... I have no idea... and I love art films but this one actually lost me. It's a shame the acting was wasted on such a dull rock of a broken story. Either it's a pretentious, convoluted mess or my brain sucks.
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Is this really that original? For who?
PedroPires9027 December 2020
Sometimes Hollywood think they are so original and the audience goes on that because they don't watch enough international cinema. The idea here is not original. The two acts, the film/reality, the allegory, the writers mind... We have all seen this before, and with much more success than here.

Good job by Audrey Plaza, some beautiful shots, an interesting part 1 with potential, but that's it. Yeah, we already know that writers/creative people suffer sooo much in the process. We know that Hollywood loves to tell us that it's not easy to be an actor/director/writer, but...I've seen this before and directors like Sion Sono did it better in the past. Much better.

PS: I'm starting to think that "subjectivity" or "open to different interpretations" is being used to justify poor endings. This is not a good ending. I know what is an open ending and like them when they are well executed. This is just laziness.
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Black Bear?
uglymushroom7 December 2020
This is definitely a film that leaves you with more questions than answers. There are some high points in the acting, but, in the end, there is just way too much dialogue and not enough story. That being said, the strongest part of this film is Aubrey Plaza. She is absolutely mind-blowing in her role as Allison, and the only reason I am giving this a 7/10. If you watch this film for anything, watch it for Aubrey Plaza's performance.
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Beautifully Confusing
atractiveeyes5 December 2020
It's beautiful but not if you're expecting a traditional or typical kind of a thriller. The plot is awesome and intriguing, it's beautifully confusing. Although there's no clear explanation for what's going on and everyone will get it from their own perspective, you'll just love and enjoy what's going on and you'll feel involved all the time. Black Bear is definitely a movie that will affect you and you'll keep thinking about it for a long time after the credits start rolling. Performances by the three leads are nice. Cinematography is beautiful with many physical beauty. One of the best thrillers this year.
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This one reminds me why I like Movies
reguizar16 December 2020
I just love this type of movie, having a such smart and incredible writing, make you think every moment of it. it was a well time spend, unexpected and twisted, playing with things taken to far. Audrey plaza was amazing on her roll. Following by a great cinematography
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shoulda called it "2 hours with Aubrey Plaza"
A_Different_Drummer6 December 2020
.. and at least you would have a cleaner shot at the targeted demographic. Plaza has a huge following because of her clever media promotions and her fans might possibly enjoy this. As a standalone film, however, it is a throwback to the ragtag non-linear experimental films of the early 70s. Which is a polite way of saying that it probably works better if the viewer has pre-ingested an assortment of mood modifiers.
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Well, that's one film I'll never watch again
greg-goremykin5 December 2020
Rather than dig too deep I'll just write that some truly outstanding performances couldn't save this film from stunt-scripting to cover up a really weak idea, just not plot-wise (though a film doesn't need a strong narrative to be good), but nothing worked *but* the acting (this film really was under-edited as well as another really weak point that jumped out. This film had enough juice for a good short, but was even as a feature way too long for whatever pay-off it gives.

The whole thing struck me as really pretentious and derivative. I didn't see anything here original or that I haven't seen done before and much better. Worth a watch if you aren't expecting more than some really great acting and none of the structure required around that to make a decent film.
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Difference well done
dominicmcmullan12 August 2020
Unlike so many passion projects, Black Bear is experimental in a deeply interesting way, while also being grounded enough not to require semiotics degree to understand.

Centring on three main characters, the narrative comes in two parts, but played in two different ways. Are they related? Probably, maybe?

In the end it doesn't matter because you get something far more engaging than a literary puzzle; a genuinely well-made and acted movie with a genuinely different structure. I cringed and laughed (sometimes at the same time!) all the way through, but I was never bored.

A real cinema-lover's movie, I'd happily watch it again. 9/10
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fzmartinovic12 August 2020
A film that cuts deep into the psychological experience of creating. I hate reviews. I just wanted to write that. Well done.
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Very good acting
Gordon-1130 December 2020
I never knew Aubrey Plaza is such a good actress! The film is captivating and really showcases how good Aubrey Plaza is.
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Should have kept the quality from first half
Near-L6 December 2020
If only this movie had remained with the realistic and interesting vibes from the first segment it would have been great, the second half where it becomes a movie about the movie is still fun to watch but it made the movie kinda pointless. Aubrey Plaza is amazing in this tho, but when isn't she?

First half 9/10 Second half 6/10
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Ursine with a Silent s...
Xstal5 December 2020
I love and adore films that get you thinking, that require untangling, decrypting, unravelling and reassembling - they challenge your sense of perspective and try to take you to places previously unimagined. Sadly, on this occasion, the writer and director has chosen to stare eye to prostate, with head fully inserted and plugged, swimming in what can only be found in Cahya, after her upset colon has evacuated its contents into a metaphorical film reel container for you to consume - cut!
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The Ultimate Puzzle-Box Narrative Film
zkonedog15 December 2020
Warning: Spoilers
I am endlessly obsessed with puzzle-box narratives within films. Not "mystery" movies, per se, but films that use the very design of the narrative itself to challenge the viewer. "Black Bear" is the ultimate in such filmmaking.

For a very basic overview, "Black Bear" sees struggling actress Allison (Aubrey Plaza) embark on a sort of airbnb retreat with couple Gabe (Christopher Abbott) and Blair (Sarah Gadon). One night, the wine gets flowing and the tongues start wagging, and events spiral out of control. Right at the climax, however...the scene completely changes. This time, Plaza's character is the drunken, unreliable actress wife of film director "Abbott", who may or may not be having an affair with Gadon's character. Which narrative is reality and which is the story? That is for the viewer to parse out for him/herself.

If the above paragraph sounds a bit confusing, I can't really blame you for thinking that. It sort of has to be seen to allow some measure of comprehension. But basically, director/writer Lawrence Michael Levine sets up two narratives featuring the same trio of actors in slightly different roles. Presumably, one is reality and one is fiction, but few outright answers are given on which is which.

The unique frame narratives are clearly the draw here, but any narrative is only as good as the performers that give it life, and that's another area where "Black Bear" is spectacular. Plaza, Abbott, and Gadon are absolutely perfect in each of their dual roles. Even during the times when you might be a little confused (and trust me, that'll happen here from time to time!), the superb chemistry keeps everything on the screen riveting.

One thing I will readily admit about "Black Bear" is that it is made for a certain type of viewer. One, like myself, who enjoys the scope and uniqueness of the screenplay just as much as the literal plot/dialogue. I wouldn't necessarily call this a "metaphor film", but rather one that discards a straightforward narrative and instead plays around with alternate storytelling styles. If that's your thing, "Black Bear" will almost certainly stand out as one of the best films you'll see in 2020. My closest comp is 2013's "Enemy" for uniqueness of narrative supported by strong acting.
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Art Imitates Life Imitates Art In This Anxiety-Inducing Meta Thriller.
CinemaClown9 December 2020
An intricately layered, fiendishly plotted & anxiety-inducing thriller that's further bolstered by Aubrey Plaza's powerfully captivating performance, Black Bear is an emotionally charged & increasingly unnerving ride that's clever & confounding in equal measure and offers an interesting insight into the behind-the-scenes chaos of art creation.

Written & directed by Lawrence Michael Levine, the film only gets more n more intense & uncomfortable as it progresses, and sustains its uneasy aura from the first frame to the last. Levine's enigmatic treatment keeps the viewers guessing and although he doesn't provide any answer, he does manage to create just the right kind of intrigue for us to continue looking for it.

Assisting the psychologically scarring drama is the haunting sound design that never allows us to settle. And then there are fabulous performances that make this journey even more worthwhile. Christopher Abbott & Sarah Gadon deliver strong inputs while Aubrey Plaza steals the show with a phenomenal rendition that's impressive enough to qualify as arguably her career-best work.

Overall, Black Bear is a dark, delirious & disturbing delight that's as subversive as it is solipsistic and while far from an easy film to decipher in one sitting, it is able to keep our interest & involvement alive throughout its runtime. One of the most challenging & stimulating films of the year, this meta-thriller paints a fascinating portrait of art imitating life imitating art, and is worth viewing for Aubrey Plaza's commanding showcase alone.
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randbark-24 December 2020
Guess the new standard in movie genres is neurosis. All the characters regardless of the stories are all neurotic. The last thing we all need nowadays is watching a bunch of neurotic actors.
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Nothing happens.
forum-926485 December 2020
This is terrible. No actual story. It was an absurd waste of our finite time on this earth.
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screaming and crying
valentinionut7 December 2020
Its a gaslighting story full of crying screaming loud and repeating those in a effect that defeats its purpose. such a theme should use those but here the effect its only annoying and disturbing. i watch to learn not to be violated myself. for example, after the director/husband calms down his wife in bed, the fade is silent but next scene is like a jump scare due to first loud noise. if i watch a movie about, lets say war, i dont want to feel PTSD. its a mistake to direct like that ill finish the movie but i dont recomand it.
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Refreshing movie for boring times
thalesbraga17 December 2020
Yes I gave it 10.


Cause it was the most refreshing movie I had seen probably since Inception.

The way the movie is articulated, the actor and the twist is really something unique. I ended the movie wanting more, yes, part 3, part 4, part 5... went straight to youtube to watch reviews and explanations about it, simply amazing on its own world.

Its an open ending movie which leaves you hanging but at the same time fulfillment with an unique and very rich artistic experience as you fill you are part of it.

Congratulations for the producers, director and actors for this unique and exquisite movie.

It should win the Oscar for original plot, at least.
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A waste of time, literally...
0w08 December 2020
It's not very often that I call a movie a 'waste of time'... In fact, I can only think of one other time that I've ever done that, and I've done hundreds of reviews... This movie builts intrigue and a story for 1hr30mins and then the movie just ends... It's honestly the weirdest turn in a story that I've seen in a long time, and it's just a big waste of the viewer's time in the end.. I would definitely not recommend that you watch this movie... You can find MUCH better movies to watch for 1hr30mins
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Smooth takeoff, bumpy ride
gdalesmith6 December 2020
Stars for the performers, including the supporting cast. Another for the brief but ambience-rich scenes featuring Plaza contemplating a fog-shrouded lake. Also a star for showing cast and crew activities while a second movie is being made within the overall Black Bear framework. That was interesting and even educational, at least for those of us who hope to produce a movie ourselves some day.

Big applause for the writer/director's departure from a normal drama by having his lead actors radically change roles about half-way into the movie. Two related stories in one.

Unfortunately, what probably seemed like a clear high concept to Levine actually isn't, judging by reviews here at IMDb and many other sites. Are one or both stories simply the imaginings of Plaza's character, since both start and end with her returning to a table to write a new screenplay? What's up with that odd look she gives the camera in the final scene? And the 'Black Bear' title? One bear is seen twice in this film, for a grand total of maybe five seconds. The bear thing was significant to Levine, but not necessarily to an audience.

Even one unresolved enigma can alienate a viewer. It's like authors who throw an occasional foreign word (often French) into the text, but leave it undefined. The implication is that people who really count will know what the word means. As for Black Bear, people who really count will figure out the enigmas, no problem. The rest should maybe go watch a rerun of Smokey and the Bandit.
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saramaria915 December 2020
The first half of the movie had potential with a proper story line, then in the second half it turned into a mess with a complete different story that had no real dramaturgy. So disappointed. I didnt want to finish it.
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