Black Bear (2020) Film Review

An experimental thriller that miscalculates women’s motivations.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Writer & Director: Lawrence Michael Levine
Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Christopher Abbott, Sarah Gadon, Paola Lázaro, Grantham Coleman

Black Bear is the story of a filmmaker and a weekend at a remote cabin. We follow characters that ultimately flip perspective and play out similar plots.

A surprise without payoff

Black Bear starts us off in what seems like a quiet, albeit uncomfortable, weekend away at a luxurious cabin. As soon as chaos ensues, we’re flipped into an altogether new, yet similar, story. The viewer is left wondering whether the two timelines are connected in some way. This experimental writing is definitely intriguing, but I found myself wanting to see the ending of the first plot rather than working through the second. I won’t spoil the ending, but it left me confused yet unmotivated to wonder the purpose of confusion.

A limited understanding of women’s motivations

The biggest shortcoming of this film is the writer’s lack of understanding of women’s motivations. Both lead female characters were 100% driven by their relationship to the male character. These women become increasingly agitated and erratic as the male antagonizes them. It’s as if they can’t function unless the male character admires and desires them. It’s a disservice, not at all cutting-edge, to continue writing women this way.

Redeeming qualities

Aubrey Plaza, Christopher Abbott, and Sarah Gadon deliver admirable performances. I enjoy watching films that feature any of these actors, Black Bear included.

There are some scenes where the female characters show more depth, but ultimately their dismay about the male character drives the plot.

Black Bear is an attempt at experimentation that falls flat in its representation of women.

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