Tag Archives: Sarah Gadon

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Bear?

Black Bear

by George Wolf

As slippery as it is inviting, Lawrence Michael Levine’s Black Bear is an intoxicating trip through the inspirations and indulgences that take root in creative minds.

It feels intensely personal, and yet – once Levine delivers his midstream shape shift – malleable enough to bend to myriad perspectives and interpretations.

We first meet Allison (Aubrey Plaza) as an actress and director facing a crisis of inspiration. She’s hoping to ignite the creative spark at a remote lakeside property overseen by Gabe (Christopher Abbott) and his pregnant girlfriend, Blair (Sarah Gadon).

As the three get to know each other, we learn that Gabe inherited the property from his family. Beyond that, there isn’t much Blair and Gabe seem to agree on. The couple’s little barbs become more intense, as does the attraction between Allison and Gabe, and we think we have a pretty good handle on what’s soon to be up.

And then we don’t.

The opening scene repeats, but Allison and Blair are co-stars on the set of the new film directed by Gabe, who is also married to Allison. The shoot is chaotic, Gabe’s motivational methods are questionable and now Allison is the one jealous of Gabe and Blair’s cozy relationship.

Knowing that Levine’s own history includes films with his wife (actress/director Sophia Takal) adds a layer of intimate intrigue, and knowing even a little about the workings of a movie set will add relatable humor.

But Black Bear isn’t a comedy – except when it’s funny. It’s also dramatic and slightly horrific, depending on your viewpoint.

Most of all, it’s emotional, propelled by career high performances from Abbott, Gadon, and Plaza. The glee each performer takes in upending character expectations is evident, with Plaza seamlessly moving from a cool, casual customer to the emotionally frayed flashpoint of a volatile triangle.

After such fireworks play out, Levine’s payoff may seem a bit underwhelming, but his film is more about the trail than where it ends. Black Bear‘s got plenty to say – about creativity, ego, insecurity, sexual politics and more – but its resonance comes from not demanding you take a side.

Pretty Dress, Ugly Girl


by Cat McAlpine

I recently attended a play that was full of young, good looking, and extremely talented actors. Unfortunately, the play wasn’t any good. Something about it lacked cohesion. Its aspirations were too high. It was entirely too self-aware. After the show, I approached my friend to let him know his performance had been marvelous, but truthfully … He nodded in grim agreement, “It’s a pretty dress on an ugly girl.”

That is exactly how I would describe Indignation.

Indignation takes place in 1951, following young Marcus (Logan Lerman) who, Jewish in upbringing but not in faith, attends his freshman year at a small college in Ohio. College is a safe haven during a time in which boys not enrolled in school are drafted for the Korean War. Tumultuous feelings bubble to the surface and then are repressed again.

Director and writer James Schamus’s adaptation of Philip Roth’s novel looks pretty enough. The period setting is well done, all moody browns and sweaters, the perfect backdrop for a coming-of-age tale mired in societal repression.

The acting is marvelous across the board, but there’s no denying that Lerman is the star, deftly handling lengthy monologues with the righteous assuredness of youth. The entire film, in fact, is rife with fantastic monologues, expertly handled. Pretty dress, ugly girl.

The core of the film is meant to hinge off of Marcus and Olivia Hutton’s (Sarah Gadon) sexual tension, taken from each other too soon. The reality is that Olivia is naught more than another manic pixie dream girl. Her key characteristics are emotional damage, constantly telling Marcus how special he is, and giving out sexual favors without any expectation of them being returned.

Lerman and Gadon are both believable in their roles but not with each other. The most they achieve is a shocked wonderment at being in the same room together. There’s never any true connection, no passion, and certainly no love. When Marcus’s mother tells him to stop seeing such an unhinged girl … he does.

An ending meant to be tragic and epic seems almost random and disjointed. The horrors of the Korean War have felt like a threat instead of a promise, caricatured by strange funeral chit chat and offhanded remarks.

People will argue that this is a marvelous film because it checks all the boxes of what we consider “great”. Period piece. Coming of age. A misunderstood intellectual. Love story. War. The acting is good. The cinematography standard. There’s a moody score. This all amounts to pretty dresses.

Ultimately, the tale simply isn’t interesting. The women are all frail, the men are all bullies. No one is very likeable. As hard as Indignation tries to pit sex and death against the cosmos, it simply doesn’t. Depression isn’t exotic. Divorce isn’t shocking. A coming of age story where the lead is technically still a virgin doesn’t seem scandalous. Looking on from 2016, the 1950s are about as thrilling as their color palate. Dull brown.