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Aubrey Plaza as Allison in Black Bear.Tandem Pictures

  • Black Bear
  • Written and directed by Lawrence Michael Levine
  • Starring Aubrey Plaza, Christopher Abbott and Sarah Gadon
  • Classification R; 104 minutes


2.5 out of 4 stars

Movies about movies are always terrifying prospects. Like television series that cannot escape the confines of hospitals, police stations and lawyers’ offices, there will always be a robust genre of films that refuse to imagine anything more fascinating than the idea of making films. Write what you know and all that.

The new black comedy Black Bear offers a slightly novel twist on the meta-production subgenre. Or it does, eventually. In the movie’s first half, we’re introduced to a creatively stunted filmmaker named Allison (Aubrey Plaza) who’s taking a short vacation on a property owned by a bickering couple who have fled Brooklyn for the vague comforts of nature (Christopher Abbott and Sarah Gadon). Soon, Allison’s first night turns into an indie-budget version of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, leading to all kinds of emotional and physical disaster. But then the script flips, sort of literally, and Black Bear reveals itself as something more ambitious.

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Christopher Abbott and Sarah Gadon in Black Bear.Tandem Pictures

Lawrence Michael Levine’s film, though, is only sporadically clever enough to pull off its central trick. Mostly, we’re stuck with a group of rather unpleasant people doing rather unpleasant things. To what desired end, it is never quite clear.

At least the film’s main trio of performers get to make gorgeous, messy fools of themselves. Plaza, currently enamouring the entirety of social media with her performance in Happiest Season, in particular gets to let loose like never quite before. She deserves whatever movie-about-a-movie-about-a-movie-but-really-about-another-movie movie that comes along her way forevermore.

Black Bear opens in select Canadian theatres and is available digitally on-demand starting Dec. 4

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Aubrey Plaza in particular gets to let loose like never quite before.Tandem Pictures

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