Review: Mark Ruffalo is remarkable in the emotional 'Infinitely Polar Bear'
PARK CITY - Imagine you worked at a Hollywood studio and someone were to pitch you a movie set in the late '70s centered on a clinically diagnosed manic depressive raising his two young daughters all by himself. Your first thought would be to immediately question its commercial viability. Happily, Maya Forbes' directorial debut wasn't dependent on a studio. If it had been, there's no way this wonderfully unexpected tearjerker would have found its way to the big screen.
Inspired by Forbes' own childhood, "Infinitely Polar Bear" immediately introduces us to Cameron (Mark Ruffalo), a husband, a father of two beautiful girls and a man in the middle of a complete nervous breakdown. After spending a few months away for treatment, Cameron tries to reconnect with his sympathetic but realistic wife Maggie (Zoe Saldana) and daughters who both adore him as much as they fear him. With Cameron unable to work, Maggie decides her best option is to get her MBA at Columbia. That means, however, the only person who could take care of her elementary-school-age kids is the same bipolar/manic husband. Initially, this seems like it can only lead to tragedy, but Forbes does an expert job at convincing us of just how much Cameron really loves the girls. Forbes keeps a light hand (similar to Noah Baumbach's "The Squid and the Whale") that still makes it all seem oh so real. For 18 months, Cameron will watch the girls during the week while Maggie comes back for the weekends. Could this possibly work? You will believe that it does because of Ruffalo, who, frankly, has never been better.
Seemingly in perfect sync with Forbes' direction and screenplay, Ruffalo turns Cameron into a well-rounded, three-dimensional character. This is a performance where even Cameron's anger always seems to hide a smile. This may sound saccharine in the context of this review, but on screen it's anything but. Ruffalo and Forbes also play with Cameron's manic tendencies to show the benefits of such an energetic dad with two adventurous kids. How this is set up through the film's first two acts is the only way the key decision made during the emotional climax will work. And, trust, this scenario could have gone terribly off the rails, but thanks to Ruffalo, Forbes and the best role Saldana's had in years, it doesn't.
Special credit has to go to newcomers Imogene Wolodarsky and Ashley Aufderheide who play Cameron and Maggie's challenging daughters. These girls talk back to their dad, let him know how embarrassed they are of his behavior in public and they push his buttons. If you have any kids over the age of 5, this likely all sounds very familiar. But Forbes does a wonderful job of capturing their true love for him. Whether he spends all night making his first flamingo skirt for one of the girl's costumes or battling with his hoarder-like tendencies, no one will have any doubt of Cameron's true intentions. Even if he may never get his wife's hand in marriage back again.
"Infinitely Polar Bear" should spark strong acquisition interest and should have strong word of mouth on the art house circuit.
2007 | Comedy | PGSummary: Newlyweds Nick (Ice Cube) and Suzanne (Long) decide to move to the suburbs to provide a better life for their two kids. But their idea of a dream home is disturbed by a contractor (McGinley) with a bizarre approach to business.Director: Steve Carr
Cast: John C. McGinley, Ice Cube, Nia Long, Aleisha Allen
1993 | Sports | PGSummary: Emotionally powerful sports classic featuring Sean Astin as a skinny high school kid with big football dreams and the determination to make his way towards his dream team at Notre Dame.Director: David Anspaugh
Cast: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty
1996 | Crime | RSummary: Jerry, a small-town Minnesota car salesman is bursting at the seams with debt... but he's got a plan. He's going to hire two thugs to kidnap his wife in a scheme to collect a hefty ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. It's going to be a snap and nobody's going to get hurt... until people start ...Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cast: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare
2013 | Comedy | NRSummary: Insanely funny comedy show created by Amy Schumer, who stars in brilliantly funny sketches about sex, city living, dating, and friendship.Director: Daniel Powell, Amy Schumer (creators)
Cast: Amy Schumer, Kevin Kane, Mike Houston
1997 | Crime | RSummary: Quentin Tarantino adaptats an Elmore Leonard novel into this story of a few increasingly desperate people scraping to get by. It has deep soul, a wicked sense of humor, and Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Pam Grier, and Robert Forster.Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster
2013 | Drama | RSummary: Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill have boundless energy in the story of a real-life commodities crook who earned millions through scummy small-time stock trades.Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
1995 | Mystery | NRSummary: Denzel Washington plays an out of work WWII vet who takes the wrong job and is soon neck-deep in a mess of politics, murder, and jazz in '40s Los Angeles.Director: Carl Franklin
Cast: Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals
2013 | Thriller | RSummary: Based on the true story of Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) a Miami bodybuilder who wants to live the American dream. He would like to have the money that other people have. So he enlists the help of fellow bodybuilder Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and ex-convict, Christian bodybuilder Paul Doyle (D...Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub
2008 | Science Fiction | PGSummary: Animated series continues the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as they battle the Emperor Palpatine, Count Dooku and General Grievous, but also takes time to explore other smaller characters in the Star Wars universe.Director: George Lucas (creator)
Cast: Tom Kane, Dee Bradley Baker, Matt Lanter
Let Streaming Genie help you.