Synopsis: A manic-depressive mess of a father tries to win back his wife by attempting to take full responsibility of their two young, spirited daughters, who don’t make the overwhelming task any easier.
Release Date: July 3, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Comedy, Drama
There’s something about autobiographical movies that strikes a chord with audiences. That’s what writer/director Maya Forbes (The Rocker, Monsters vs. Aliens) is counting on with her new movie Infinitely Polar Bear.
Set in 1978, Infinitely Polar Bear is about a Boston woman named Maggie Stuart (Avatar‘s Zoe Saldana) and her manic-depressive husband, Cameron (Mark Ruffalo from Now You See Me). After a particularly bad manic episode, Cam is hospitalized, leaving Maggie alone to care for their two young daughters, Amelia and Faith (Imogene Wolodarsky and Ashley Aufderheide, both in their first big-screen roles). When he is finally released to a halfway house, Maggie is offered a scholarship to Columbia University Business School. Because his doctors say that a normal routine would be good for him, it is decided that Cam should take care of the girls for the duration of Maggie’s eighteen month MBA program. The girls move in with Cam, with Maggie returning to Boston from New York whenever she can to help him out. Cam learns as much from the girls as they learn from him, with everyone sharing in the same ultimate goal: to restore normalcy to their family.
Maya Forbes based the screenplay for Infinitely Polar Bear on her own childhood, writing about her manic-depressive father and her Columbia-educated mother. The film seems to accent the more pleasant memories of Forbes’ upbringing, painting a rather rosy picture of her father’s bi-polar disorder. That’s not to say that the movie makes the condition seem glamorous, only that it doesn’t get into the real depressing aspects of manic-depression. This is a good thing, because it’s not a dark movie. Some detractors will probably find fault in an unrealistic depiction of a serious mental disorder, but in the end, Infinitely Polar Bear is meant to be an uplifting and optimistic movie, even if it only tells half of the story.
Okay, so psychological evaluations aside, Infinitely Polar Bear is a fun movie. That may sound weird to say about a movie that deals with a manic-depressive character, but it’s true. For the most part, the film is just a series of snapshots of life. Maggie’s going to business school and Cam’s taking care of the girls are just the events that provide a loose framing device for the scenarios and situations in which the family finds itself on a day-to-day basis. The film alternates between being heartwarming and heartbreaking, but never leaves the viewer in tears either way. Infinitely Polar Bear is rated R, but that’s mostly because of Cam’s colorful language; it is a family film, it’s just a family film with a bunch of F-bombs in it.
It’s interesting to note that both of the adult leads in Infinitely Polar Bear – Zoe Saldana and Mark Ruffalo – have played green-skinned super-heroes in Marvel Comics movies – she as Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy and he as The Hulk in The Avengers. It goes without saying that Infinitely Polar Bear is a completely different movie than either of those blockbusters, focusing much more on character development and lacking a single explosion or somersault in the entire film. Both actors prove that, even without CGI and makeup, they can deliver the goods. The role of Cam Stuart is a tough one, but Ruffalo nails it. He fully commits to the role, turning in a performance that is both thoughtful and heart-wrenching. Likewise, Saldana is great as Maggie, the mother who basically struggles with three kids – the two girls and her bi-polar husband. Speaking of the two girls, both Imogene Wolodarsky and Ashley Aufderheide are wonderfully charming and suitably cute in their roles. Fun Fact: Imogene Wolodarksy, who plays the oldest girl Amelia, is director Maya Forbes real-life daughter. As good as the individual performances are, where Infinitely Polar Bear really clicks is during the scenes in which the family is together; there is a fragile-yet-loving chemistry that exists between the four principal characters that is very special. Infinitely Polar Bear is driven by the spectacular performances of its cast.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Maya Forbes
- Producer(s): Sam BisbeeBingo GubelmannBenji KohnGalt NiederhofferWallace Wolodarsky
- Screenwriter(s): Maya Forbes
- Cast: Mark RuffaloZoe SaldanaImogene Wolodarsky Ashley Aufderheide
- Editor(s): Michael R. Miller
- Cinematographer: Bobby Bukowski
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Kasia Walicka-Maimone
- Casting Director(s): Douglas Aibel
- Music Score: Theodore Shapiro
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA