This year, even as politics have mixed into entertainment, truth into lies, April into August, it is still the blurred boundary between art and actuality that wins out onscreen.
That’s the ever-indistinct line on which rests Black Bear, a single drama from writer-director Lawrence Michael Levine that premiered at Sundance in January.
The dark, dreamlike indie actors Aubrey Plaza as Allison, a filmmaker, and actress who goes to live in a lake house with friends-of-friends Gabe and Blair, searching for inspiration.
She finds or perhaps what she inspires is a tangled web of jealousy, desire, and control; all three manipulate each other into confirming their deep fears.
“Sometimes the moving of a 3rd person in a romantic relationship can type of inflict havoc if there are already these self doubts or these cracks,” Gadon says. “I thought that the movie really explored that in a extremely intense way.” Adds Plaza:
“This delivers, like, the complete nightmare version of that.” In a thrilling shift, the cabin in the woods becomes not just fixing for the Allison, Gabe, and Blair’s anxious dialogues but a film set for their scripted ones, where the dynamic is intensified and mirrored by the high drama of shooting an indie film.
Black Bear’s filmmaking aspect adds a different layer of meaning and interest for Plaza, who was the first to sign onto the project and created the movie. “What does it look like to be in a relation and to be making an art?
When does it go too away, and when is it worth it?” she shows. “That is extremely personal to me and fascinating to me. And I think the film explores that really in a fed-up way.”
While Abbott adored “the opportunity to poke fun at directors that I have worked with” in the moviemaking sequences, which are slyly hilarious even as the trio’s tortured relationships unravel amid the chaos.
It was the sensibility of the different medium that won him over to make the movie in the first place.
“It type of felt like this weird mix of cinema and theatrical experience,” he says of Levine’s dense, rich script. “Simply I don’t like scripts that are that verbose, but it was written properly.”