Sunday, January 3, 2016

Video review: "Infinitely Polar Bear"

I was delighted to see Mark Ruffalo receive a Golden Globe nomination for his leading role in “Infinitely Polar Bear,” even though I’m a bit dubious about the awards shindig organized by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association -- a group I contend is more theoretical than actual.

That’s because this is the sort of tiny independent film that deserves to be recognized, and nominations like this can help the movie find an audience on video.

Written and directed by Maya Forbes based on her actual 1970s childhood, “Polar Bear” is the portrait of an unstable but loving dad as viewed by his daughters. Cameron is a super-smart educated guy who can’t hold down a job because he’s manic-depressive. Mom Maggie (Zoe Saldana) has decided she needs a break from the chaos, and departs to New York for 18 months to get her master’s degree.

In the meantime, Cameron has to play full-time dad to the girls. That would be hard enough on its own, but his manic episodes, along with the interracial makeup of the family, adds additional pressure. Cameron is the sort of guy who sometimes forgets to wear pants, talks to himself and spreads their cramped apartments with piles of broken stuff he intends to repair (and occasionally does).

Ruffalo’s one of the best actors working in film today, and he gives a textured performance that goes beyond the outsized behavior tics and showy moments we usually see from of this sort of role. Ruffalo doesn’t give any big “Academy Award clip” speeches because Cameron is too distracted to concentrate on any one thing for too long.

That may hurt his chances at Oscar gold, but maybe a little bling from foreign film journalists would make for a nice consolation prize.

Bonus features are not expansive but are hefty, anchored by a feature-length commentary track that includes Forbes, Ruffalo and Wally Wolodarsky -- who is Forbes’ husband and a producer. (Their daughter also plays one of the girls.) I always love it when actors participate with filmmakers on commentaries, especially movies that are entirely performance-driven like this one.

There are also deleted scenes and a Q&A with cast and crew from the Los Angeles Film Festival.



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