Review: Brigsby Bear / Bill

Brigsby Bear tells the story of James Pope (Saturday Night Live veteran Kyle Mooney), kidnapped as a baby by fake parents Ted (Mark Hamil) and April (Jane Adams) and made to live in a remote underground bunker, spooked with tales of mysterious diseases that come from the post-apocalyptic air in order to make sure he doesn’t escape.

His only company, other than his parents, lies within 35 volumes of The Adventures of Brigsby Bear, a weekly TV program that teaches dubious life lessons, such as “curiosity is an unnatural emotion”, and to “only trust a familiar unit”.

James has been obsessed with Brigsby all his life. He makes up theories, art projects and talks relentlessly about it to whoever will listen (even to those who won’t).

The film soon moves on to the police raiding the bunker, and returning a reluctant James to his original parents (played by Matt Walsh and Michaela Watkins) and Aubrey, the sour teenage sister character seen in so many movies, but played very well here by Ryan Simpkins.

After settling in to his new/old home, and after a terribly awkward house party and his first experience with drugs and the like, James discovers during in therapy session that he is the only one who’s ever seen Brigsby Bear.

After many other such sessions, James makes it his mission to finish the Brigsby storyline once and for all by making a movie with his friends.

It’s a very funny film, with a lot of its humour stemming from social awkwardness. I was reminded of The Truman Show and Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Brigsby fits neatly into that genre of films in which a person is suddenly thrust from an invented world into the real one, and also with the nerdy films about young people making their own films.

It is one of the best Sydney Film Festival films I saw this year.

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