Photo: ‘Brigsby Bear’
2017’s ‘Brigsby Bear’ is not for everyone, but for those who want to check it out, it can be a life-changing watch. The film follows James Pope (Kyle Mooney), a twenty-five-year-old who lives in a bunker with his eccentric parents, Ted (Mark Hamill) and April (Jane Adams). James spends his days being homeschooled and watching his favorite show, ‘Brigsby Bear’, a surreal science fiction hybrid of ‘Teddy Ruxpin’ and ‘Doctor Who’. The series is delivered to the house once a week on a VHS tape with a suspiciously bad drawing on the cover.
Soon, the police come and rescue James, revealing that Ted and April kidnapped James when he was a newborn in the hospital. Now, James has to adjust to his new life with his real family while learning that Ted created Brigsby Bear just for his eyes only. If you’re wondering, yes, this is a comedy from members of ‘Saturday Night Live’ and ‘the Lonely Island’. With a plot this dark, one would think it was a no-nonsense drama, but this lighthearted film tells a fun story about our obsession with nostalgia and the importance of creativity.
The Obsession With Nostalgia
Our current society is obsessed with nostalgia. Our favorite childhood shows are being rebooted or remade with an adult audience in mind, and there are a million BuzzFeed lists on childhood shows you may have forgotten about. One could argue that we’re obsessed with the media from our childhood because it’s comforting and one could argue that it’s because the media from back then really was that compelling. The fictional ‘Brigsby Bear’ would perfectly match with these types of nostalgic shows from our childhoods. ‘Brigsby Bear’, following the misadventures of a ‘Barney the Dinosaur’ type Bear character, looks like something you would see on Saturday mornings in the eighties. It looks like a show a kid would sit down in front of while eating a bowl of cereal.
In the film, James is obsessed with ‘Brigsby Bear’ in the same way that fanboys are obsessed with nostalgic media. James has merchandise from the series and even talks to fellow fans on message boards (unaware that the fellow fans are just Ted and April). When James learns that no one else has ever seen ‘Brigsby Bear’ because Ted made it just for him, James decides that he wants to create an ending for the unfinished work. James wants to make a ‘Brigsby Bear’ movie which leads to the idea of nostalgia and moving on. James, being out in the real world for the first time, is confused and unadjusted. Making a ‘Brigsby Bear’ movie is James’ way of feeling grounded, of having something familiar during a new phase of life. While making ‘Brigsby Bear’ though, James eventually experiences more out of life and moves on from his stagnated childhood.
As James is now out of the bunker and away from his ‘Brigsby Bear’ tapes, he can experience life. He makes friends, goes to parties, and even watches other movies (that he admittedly doesn’t like as much as ‘Brigsby Bear’). Getting to experience more out of life, James’ pop culture obsession with ‘Brigsby Bear’ lessens. This is especially seen in the film’s ending, which takes place at the movie’s screening. The film, which James has now titled, ‘The Brigsby Bear Movie I Made With My Friends’, shows how Brigsby Bear is not as important to James anymore when compared to the new friends that he made. After the film’s showing, James imagines Brigsby Bear and waves goodbye to him as his friends congratulate him on the film. In the film’s ending, James says goodbye to his nostalgia and focuses on his present, on his new friends, and his real family.
‘Brigsby Bear’ – Creativity Is The Best Medicine
While ‘Brigsby Bear’ shows the importance of moving on from nostalgia to live in the present, it also shows the power creativity has during hard times. James is dealing with a lot in the film; he learns that he was abducted as a baby and that the people who raised him are not his biological parents. James struggles with adjusting to these new changes and decides to make a ‘Brigsby Bear’ movie so that he can finally get an ending to the story that he’s grown up with. Making this film though leads James to be able to positively adjust to life outside of the bunker.
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‘Brigsby Bear’ shows how creativity can lead to powerful bonds and friendships. James makes the ‘Brigsby Bear’ movie with his biological sister, Aubrey (Ryan Simpkins), and his new friends. One of these friends is Spencer (Jorge David Lendeborg Jr.), a fellow young filmmaker with a passion for directing. One of the film’s highlights is the friendship James and Spencer form during the filming of their project, where the two bond over their love of moviemaking. This aspect of the film showcases how creativity can bring people closer together because of the teamwork that these projects often take and the shared passion that comes with it. While James sets out to make a movie, he ends up making his first real friends along the way.
James directing a ‘Brigsby Bear’ movie to move on and recognize his trauma is seen in one of the film’s best scenes. To make the ‘Brigsby Bear’ film as authentic as possible, James has to visit Ted in prison so he can record him voicing the characters. This means that James has to sit down with the man who kidnapped him as a baby. Sitting down with Ted gives James closure, getting to hear his side of the story and have his questions answered. Having Ted do the voices in the film shows how ‘Brigsby Bear’ is directly connected to James’ trauma and how even recreating Ted’s work with this film is James’ way of moving on from his past.
At its core, ‘Brigsby Bear’ is a movie about the obsession one has with pop culture and how creativity can help one deal with complicated emotions. It’s a film that shows the benefits of creativity, from the friendships that it can create to how it can help us move on from hard times. It’s a film about our obsession with nostalgic pop culture and how it’s important to move on from that in order to enjoy the present. ‘Brigsby Bear’ may have a dark story, but it tells an optimistic and heartfelt story on how art can help us move on from trauma.
‘Brigsby Bear’ is available to stream on Hulu.
Director: Dave McCary
Screenwriters: Kevin Costello, Kyle Mooney
By Brianna Benozich
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Brianna Benozich is a writer for The Hollywood Insider and a stand up comedian. With a background in screenwriting, she believes that every good story relies on character, story, and themes. Brianna believes that these components, especially with comedies, can start necessary conversations and even open the minds of the audience. She strives to bring attention to underrepresented and overshadowed films and television series which align with the core values of Hollywood Insider’s mission to provide meaningful and compelling stories.