I’m calling foul. Y’know, if you want to dedicate a fond remembrance to your bipolar afflicted father…wonderful. I sincerely hope that it was therapeutic for you, and that you look back on your filmic accomplishment with great satisfaction and pride. Here’s the problem though. But finding a distributor, introducing your work on the festival circuit, and obtaining a North American release date, now I am expected to experience it too. And I have a heart, plus I understand. My own father was afflicted with a mental disability, brought on by severe substance abuse. He lived for 24 years in that state, before passing at the age of 70. And it wasn’t easy, it was often difficult, and it was never fun. Maya Forbes’ “Infinitely Polar Bear” is written and directed in a way that tries to make it desirable to have a mentally unstable parent of your very own. Bullshit. This is a damn fairy tale. And we have more than enough of those.
Cameron Stuart (Mark Ruffalo–preening, prancing, and platitudinous, in an over-the-top role) suffers from bipolar disorder and has had a psychotic break. He’s an educated, Bostonian, bohemian…who can cook. Cam (as he’s called) is married to an intelligent, beautiful woman named Maggie (Zoe Saldana…almost perfect, but she deserves so much more), and raising two young daughters (Imogene Wolodarsky–the director’s own daughter, and Ashley Aufderheide). But he loses his job and home after his breakdown, and is hospitalized and given intense therapy. Maggie is then forced to relocate with the girls to a small apartment, and struggle to acquire lucrative employment. When Cameron is somewhat rehabilitated, he is able to move to a halfway house. So, stretching credibility to the nth degree, Maggie decides to move to New York City and continue her education. This decision leaves the children with the erratic Cam, who runs off to bars in the middle of the night when stressed (leaving his grade school kids alone), and hordes enough junk in their apartment to make it borderline unlivable. But, you know…he’s fun.
If Maya Forbes can acquire a decent enough budget to get this sappy story made, maybe they should have handed out insulin shots at the door. I guess it’s possible that that would’ve bolstered its tepid box office. Ms. Forbes has done a lot of television writing…and it shows. This is her feature debut as a writer/director. Mark Ruffalo is one of our finest film actors, but his character isn’t directed to be discernibly human here. Not his fault. Zoe Saldana brings a magical amount of poise and gravitas to her role, but her motivations are poorly constructed. But Ms. Zaldana didn’t write it. Where does the fault lie? Oh-the kids are fine. “Infinitely Polar Bear” is too cutesy and syrupy to offer any real rewards. I’m glad Ms. Forbes got this off of her chest, now I wonder if she can make something good. Her movie stinks, but the lead actors are already forgiven.