Black Bear review: Aubrey Plaza and cast elevate this playfully meta look at filmmaking

Charlotte O'Sullivan
·1-min read
<p>Aubrey Plaza</p> (film handout)

Aubrey Plaza

(film handout)

Aubrey Plaza has a Mona Lisa sneer. Her mysteriously sexy mouth lit up the TV series Parks and Recreation and works its magic in this meta US indie drama about a talented and primal prima donna who uses fiction to savage her foes.

Written and directed by Lawrence Michael Levine, the film comes in two parts. In the first section, Allison (Plaza), a breezy actress-turned-film-maker, is on a rural retreat in the Adirondacks, with bed and board provided by a yuppie couple, Gabe and Blair (Christopher Abbott and Sarah Gadon; fantastic). If bickering were an extreme sport, these two would have a home heaving with trophies. That there’s an instant attraction between Allison and Gabe only adds to the fury of the pregnant, possessive and increasingly inebriated Blair.

Audrey Plaza is mesmerising in this meta dramafilm handout
Audrey Plaza is mesmerising in this meta dramafilm handout

The second section is set in the same house. This time, however, it’s Plaza’s character who’s jealous and pie-eyed. An actress, she’s the star of a movie being directed by her toxic, Machiavellian husband, Gabe (Abbott), who keeps huddling with a pretty cast-member (Gadon).

As the psycho-dynamics unfold, Levin finds time to lampoon the world of low-budget film-making, with Abbott’s Cassavetes-wannabe provoking the most chuckles. Hipster Gabe is the ultimate tw*t in the hat and the passive-aggressive way he demands nibbles from minions feels just right.

The scene where Gabe shoots the last scene of his opus is both gruelling and wonderfully involving. Levine’s own finale, by comparison, is a bit of a let-down. Still, his po-mo, playfully feminist movie leaves a lasting impression. Bears may not defecate in these woods, but s*** hits the fan with style.

104mins, cert 15. On demand

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