“Infinitely Polar Bear” is an autobiographical account of writer and director Maya Forbes’ life with her father, who has bipolar disorder. I commend her for trying to tell her story as authentically as possible but it doesn’t always help the film reach any memorable heights.
There is no doubt “Infinitely Polar Bear” has its share of grief and frustration, as a family tries to cope with their manic depressive father. But, Forbes’ script is too often tonally imbalanced to leave a lasting impression. One minute, we are in a small, claustrophobic apartment with this family, the next minute the film plays things too much like a screwball comedy. “Infinitely Polar Bear” frustratingly wavers between mawkish and slapstick.
Mark Ruffalo and Zoe Saldana play Cameron and Maggie. They have two girls, Amelia (Imogene Wolodarsky) and Faith (Ashely Aufderheide). Cameron suffers from bipolar disorder and the family never knows what to expect next from him. They love their husband and father and Cameron loves his family. They struggle financially because Cameron can’t hold a job down. In an effort to create a better life for herself and her children, Maggie enrolls in business school in New York City to get her MBA.
This leave Cameron with the girls, a daunting task for him to do alone and for the girls to handle on their own. They see their mother on weekends, which is often a relief for the girls and Cameron. Cameron truly wants to prove that he can handle raising their daughters, even at times when he doesn’t believe it himself.
Ruffalo and Saldana wield a believable chemistry as the world-weary Cameron and Maggie. Ruffalo is such a fine actor, who brings his earthy appeal to all of his roles. He plays Cameron a bit too big here, which often shifts into grandstanding. Ruffalo’s low-key approach to his roles is what makes him such a likable actor. It’s not like him to capital-A act and it’s distracting in “Infinitely Polar Bear”.
Forbes’ film could have been something memorable but is too slight and chaotically told to make a lasting impression. I’m glad she could find the humor in telling this deeply personal story but it is not portrayed well on screen.
‘Infinitely Polar Bear’ rates 4 out of 10