• Review: Infinitely Polar Bear (2015)

    From David N. Butterworth@21:1/5 to All on Mon Feb 29 15:29:30 2016
    A film review by David N. Butterworth
    Copyright 2016 David N. Butterworth

    ** (out of ****)

    We all know if you want an award, do a disease. "And the winner is..." Tom Hanks in "Philadelphia" (AIDS), Dustin Hoffman in "Rain Man" (autism/savant syndrome), Daniel Day-Lewis in "My Left Foot" (cerebral palsy), Julianne
    Moore in "Still Alice" (early-onset Alzheimer's), Nicolas Cage in "Leaving
    Las Vegas" (alcoholism). Academy voters smiled less kindly on Mark
    Ruffalo's performance in "Infinitely Polar Bear" (manic-depressive bipolar disorder), although the versatile actor *did* pick up a Golden Globe
    nomination (apparently Matt Damon's performance in "The Martian" was way funnier). Ruffalo's Cameron Stuart is infinitely the least of the aforementioned turns, and the debut film from Maya Forbes is anything but
    high profile, end of-year Oscar bait--it's a small, quiet contemplation of mental illness based on a true story. The ungracious among us might unduly dismiss Ruffalo's contributions to the film as little more than a squint
    and a prop, a cigarette forever dangling out the corner of his mouth, but
    he's better than that. While his blue-blood Boston accent comes and goes
    as often as his mood swings, we do get a strong sense of how difficult it
    is to live with someone who's singularly focused one minute, zoned out the next. Ruffalo tries hard to avoid over-embellishing the former or
    understating the latter and while not always successful, his work ethic is commendable. Unfortunately, writer/director Forbes's earnest resolve to demystify Cam's disorder prevents her film from establishing a satisfying
    story arc and the narrative suffers. Zoe Saldana, as the wife who leaves
    her children in the questionably-capable hands of Ruffalo's post-breakdown father in order to further her education in the city, is adequate, as are
    the young actors who play the two girls (Imogene Wolodarsky and Ashley Aufderheide). But as Ruffalo can attest, diseases-of-the-week and adequate don't win statuettes.

    David N. Butterworth

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