Monday, August 24, 2015

Infinitely Polar Bear (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Infinitely Polar Bear

In echoing the comic style of Paul Mazursky (Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice) director Maya Forbes delivers an entertaining, yet stirring film, "Infinitely Polar Bear" about her father and his struggle. The film co-stars Forbes' daughter, Imogene Wolodarsky in a striking performance.

The energetic actor Mark Ruffalo is Cam, a sensitive and loving father from a wealthy family who happens to have Bipolar Disorder which is kept hidden from his kids, Amelia (Wolodarsky) and Faith (Ashley Aufderheide).

When the mother, Maggie (Zoe Saldana) decides to pursue her MBA, she asks Cam to take over the care of the kids while she takes classes in New York City.

Although just released from the hospital, Cam is thrilled to take over the chief duties, especially since he has hopes, as any husband would, that the family will heal from its crisis.

At first things go swimmingly, but then the daily routine, together with domestic stresses begin to take its toll on Cam.

He goes off his medication.

Although at times it does feel as though Ruffalo chews the scenery a bit and overacts during his outbursts, the film is strongly held together by the principal players, Ruffalo, Saldana, and the young actors Wolodarsky and Aufderheide.

The cult actor Kier Dullea from "2001" gives a surprise outing as Cam's concerned and sexist father.  But there is a more direct Kubrick reference in the film to see. In one scene, the daughters are shown at the end of a long hallway. The perspective is playfully appropriated from "The Shining." This makes the incidents both jolting and funny at once, increasing the impact.

Though the events are jarring, this is no noisy melodrama; the scenes are well balanced with many soft and telling images. We truly get a feel of the love in this family and Cam, despite his roaring quakes (Alas, the actor has played The Hulk), is no monster.

That said, the arguments are so concussive and abrupt that it feels like a dark comedy rather than a sensitive study of a family.

Just when one might think everything will fly off the rails as in a gross-out comedy however, pathos arrives to pull all into a proper tone, as when the errant dad returns to baleful eyes.

The best segments are when Cam is shown as a painfully conscientious father. He is unhinged and dangerously accelerating as if becoming a mad scientist. To the film's credit, one also clearly sees the charisma of Cam and the unyielding joy that his daughters have with him.

Solid as well is the agile way Cam is portrayed during confrontations. Obnoxious,  explosive and off-putting, yet with more than a bit of charm, Ruffalo has the perfect aura of light laced with lunacy. He also quite viscerally defends his wife with an authentic mania.  In this, the film succeeds punchily and well.

It is only at the film's final scene that the momentum slips. It could have been a more potent and heroic valentine without its heartstring knot.

Despite its garnish of icing, Ruffalo's charge is impossible to dismiss and in its display of a compassionate family under duress, the sentimental gush is minor. Greatly brought to satisfying heights through its cast, "Infinitely Polar Bear" is no routine or detached voyage.

Write Ian at

No comments: