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Annabelle Attanasio's Mickey and the Bear Review

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Mickey and the Bear | Review

Mickey and the Bear | Review

A Bear to Care: Attanasio Scores Modest, Sincere Debut

Annabelle Attanasio's Mickey and the Bear ReviewAlthough lacking in originality and narrative energy, director Annabelle Attanasio more often than not makes up for such slights with authentic strides and nuanced performances in her debut Mickey and the Bear, which showcases relative newcomer Camila Morrone (Death Wish, 2018) as a talent to watch for.

Set in small town Anaconda, Montana, a climate as constricting as the family of reptiles it evokes, creates the landscape for the titular motherless teen who, on the verge of graduating from high school must contend with leaving behind her PTSD suffering, pill-popping dad (James Badge Dale) in a relationship where she’s assumed the role of guardian. Attanasio deftly navigates an enmeshed, often toxic familial relationship, which generates some mild tension when she leaves behind her old beau for classmate Wyatt (Calvin Demba, Last Christmas), a half-British love interest whose presence evokes a whole new world outside her limited frame.

Dale, who’s amassed a fine filmography off playing supporting toughies, turns in an aggravating and persuasive performance as her emotionally crippled and simultaneously manipulative father (perhaps even more rough around the edges than his throwaway role in this year’s The Kitchen). Together, they a watchable though not entirely dynamic duo as a troubled father and daughter who seem doomed to waste away in the Middle America hinterlands, where dreams dry up in the dust and sorrows are escaped at the bottom of a bottle.

Beyond the problem of familiarity, the dramatic stakes aren’t quite high enough, though some hints about additional dysfunctions may have been left behind on the editing room floor. As it stands, with Mickey contemplating whether she should stay or go, we’re never made to fear for her if she chose the former or embrace the need for her to do the latter—as a beautiful young white woman, she could make either option work. Attanasio, who spent her childhood as an actor (she’s the daughter of Oscar nominated screenwriter Paul Attanasio, who penned 90s critical darlings Quiz Show and Donnie Brasco) displays a knack for authenticity and culling subtle performances from material often over dramatized.

★★½/☆☆☆☆☆

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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