As long as your dad is fun, who cares if he’s a little crazy?
Growing up, Amelia Stuart (Imogene Wolodarsky) had a lot to put up with. For one, her father, Cam (Mark Ruffalo), had a bipolar disorder that tended to make him awfully erratic, even though, deep down inside, he meant well. Though she, her father, her mother (Zoe Saldana), and her little sister (Ashley Aufderheide), were never poor, per se, they never quite had a lot of money either and always seemed to be living from paycheck-to-paycheck. That’s why, when her mother gets the grand idea of chasing her dream to become a lawyer so that she can take care of her family once and for all, she’s worried. They have no money, but mostly, that means that all of the family duties will be given to Cam – someone who can’t be trusted with a jar of peanut butter, let alone, two kids, a mortgage, a job, and a whole butt-load of other responsibilities. But still, with this knowledge, Amelia’s mom heads out to study anyway, leaving Cam to take over the role as a family-leader, which, of course, can have both its “good”, as well as its “bad”. But no matter what, through it all, the family tries to love each other and get past their issues, regardless of how big they may be.
Thank heavens for Mark Ruffalo being in Infinitely Polar Bear. Without him, the movie would probably just be another one of those feel-good, earnest after school specials about families facing adversity, families taking on all sorts of challenges along the way of their journey to something, and at the end of it all, still coming out on top, happy, united and more in love than ever. That’s basically all of Infinitely Polar Bear in a nutshell and if anything, it sounds like it deserves a spot somewhere on the 4 o’clock block on Lifetime, rather than on the big screen, or whichever screen one decides to watch movies on nowadays.
Then again, there’s Mark Ruffalo who, basically, saves the day and then some.
As Cam Stuart, Ruffalo is clearly having a great time, but he doesn’t forget that there’s actually a heart and soul to this character that makes him work so well. Because Cam’s personality can border between “outrageous” to “chill”, it’s interesting to see Ruffalo play between both sides, but at the same time, still seem like the same person. Cam is clearly an intelligent character who has seen life, been through life and knows what to expect from it all, so it’s not hard to listen closely by and take note. Still, he’s not the old wise man in the room and instead, also likes to have a bit of fun and can sometimes be more spirited and exciting than his own daughters, both of whom can’t be any older than 13.
Even though the movie itself sort of gets mixed up in what exactly is causing Cam to act-out so much irrationally in the first place, Ruffalo stays honest, hilarious and most of all, heartfelt. He seems like the kind of dad we get in these types of movies where we know he’s a bit of an unintentional screw-up and can never change, but also means so well that it’s hard to hold anything against him. Some of this has to do with the writing for Cam, but most of it is definitely towards Ruffalo and his genuine likability that floats off the screen.
No wonder why he’s been nominated for a Golden Globe and is basically the only thing worth remembering here.
Okay, maybe that’s not totally true and just another case of me being utterly harsh on a movie that doesn’t fully deserve it. Zoë Saldaña plays the mother here and while she’s not around a whole lot to begin with, you still get the idea that she’s just waiting, watching in the background, ready for whenever her time is up to be called to the line of duty that is motherhood and raising a family. Her and Ruffalo have nice enough chemistry together too, that makes you believe they actually would get together, have sex a bunch of times, raise two kids together, and love one another enough not to get in the way of each other’s own, singular happiness. In a way, that’s how all people want their relationships to be, but so rarely get.
But other than these two performances, everything else about Infinitely Polar Bear is just frustratingly mediocre and light beyond belief. Writer/director Maya Forbes is clearly telling an autobiographical tale here and while it all seems realistic enough to be believed in, none of it ever really connects. For instance, we know that since Cam could go nuts at literally any second, we’re waiting for that moment to come, but for some reason, it never actually seems to. Instead, we just watch a bunch of scenes where Cam acts like a 12-year-old throwing a tantrum, where all he wants to do is hang out with kids his daughter’s ages and treat them to hot chocolate. In a way, yes, it sounds a bit weird, which it may have intended to be, but Forbes seems like she’s having a total ball telling this material again and it shows the whole way through.
Not that there’s anything wrong with Forbes wanting to tell her story of childhood in a lovely way, but still, it does take away a bit from the story when there’s no real dramatic-arc or any sort of conflict pushing it along. The only conflict here seems to be that Cam may, or may not snap, and is a bit weird – that’s about it. Everything else seems pretty cut-and-dry, which may not be something Forbes actually wants to hear about her own childhood, but how it plays out here, that’s exactly what it is.
Simple and relatively easygoing. Sorry.
Consensus: Ruffalo saves Infinitely Polar Bear from being a slightly sappy, overly-sweet tale about one family’s test of power and love, although neither of which actually get tested in any way, shape, or form.
5 / 10