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Monday
Jan272014

Infinitely Polar Bear

Infinitely Polar Bear
Directed by: Maya Forbes
Released on: January 18th, 2014 | Sundance Film Festival 2014
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

One of the best received films at Sundance Film Festival 2014, writer-director Maya Forbes’ semi-autobiographical Infinitely Polar Bear tells the story of a father, Cam (Mark Ruffalo), who takes care of his two daughters while their mother, Maggie (Zoe Saldana), earns her MBA.

It is Boston, 1978, and Cam gets released from a mental hospital just about the time “bohemia is dead” Maggie and her bourgeois Midwestern idealism get her accepted into Columbia’s MBA program. Due to peculiar family finances, Maggie must leave her two daughters, Amelia (Imogene Wolodarsky) and Beth (Pauline Stuart), with their mentally unstable father in their small Boston apartment for 18 months while Mom attends school in New York. Although Maggie hates to leave her kids, the structure of parenting may just be what Cam needs — along with lithium.

Naturally, or cinematically, daughters and Dad get off to rough start. Dad is unabashedly eccentric to their neighbors and the girls’ friends. They run from him, not to him. The daughters do little to help around the house, but they sure have their demands. Sometimes the tension pushes dad to drink. The girls are continuously embarrassed.

A warm, touching story about family, Infinitely Polar Bear is not without its social merits. This is the late 1970s, and the man of the house is no longer necessarily the breadwinner. Other than his occasional madness, drunkenness and eccentricities, Cam is more adept at parenting than the mother. He is more playful, and he can cook. Meanwhile Maggie, an African-American woman, is breaking barriers through ambition and education. Mom chooses career over family, yet suffers no less for it than her white, male counterparts would under the same circumstances (although one firm drops her application when they discover she has kids).

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