Friday, June 26, 2015
Infinitely Polar Bear
The film opens in 1978 in Boston when we hear 10-year-old Amelia Stuart's (Imogene Wolodarsky, the director's daughter) sharp and opinionated voice as the film's narrator. She tells us that back in 1967, despite the fact that her father Cam (Mark Ruffalo) is manic-depressive (now it's called bipolar disorder), her African American mother Maggie (Zoe Saldana) "doesn't care" and marries him anyway. But when Cam has a nervous breakdown and is sent to the hospital, Maggie separates from Cam and takes Amelia and her younger sister Faith (Ashley Aufderheide) to a less affluent apartment complex.
It turns out that Cam is from a rich family, but his relatives only help him on his rent and nothing else. Meggie and Cam struggle to make ends meet while shuffling Amelia and Faith between two places. Maggie believes the only way to make a break is to send the girls to private school for better education. In order to afford a private school, she needs more money. In order to make more money, she needs to attend Columbia University to get her MBA in 18 months. In order to go to school in New York, she needs to let Cam take care of the girls in Boston and she comes back to visit on weekends. Really? Nevertheless, the eccentric yet unstable Cam takes on the challenge. As for Amelia and Faith, the topsy-turvy experience has a tremendous impact on their coming-of-age.
There is no doubt how much Cam loves his daughters, and the great empathic Mark Ruffalo deserves all the credits for brilliantly playing a sympathetic character. But even though the writer-director Maya Forbes mostly picks cheerful and amusing stories to tell about Cam, I would still be very worried to leave two young children with him if I were Maggie. The decisions that these two adults make don't seem to always have the best interest of the children in mind. Yet, they take their actions anyway with the intention of building a better future for their children. That doesn't really make sense. Cam may have his excuse for being mentally ill and can't think straight, but Maggie should have known better.
But the moments Cam spent with Amelia and Faith make the film all fuzzy and warm. Even I don't believe all the words in Amelia's narration, the energetic performance and the cuteness of the film gloss over the flaws.