Last night I finally saw Annabelle Attanasio‘s Mickey and the Bear (Utopia, 11.13), a stand-up domestic drama which has shown at noteworthy festivals over the past several months (SXSW, Montclair, Cannes “Acid”, Hamptons Film Festival). It’s a modest but solid film, steady and pared-down and fortified by on-target performances and a constant tone of restraint and unforced assurance. You can trust this film and pretty much everything in it — you can tell that right away.
Set in the Montana town of Anaconda, pic focuses on Mickey (Camila Morrone), the young but already world-weary daughter of Hank (James Badge Dale), an opioid-addicted Iraq War vet with a hair-trigger temper and the attitude of a 13 year-old delinquent.
The basic question is “when is Mickey, a 19 year-old who’s vaguely terrified by the idea of living a modest, no-account life in Anaconda for the next 60 or 70 years, going to finally realize that her dad is a nihilistic, combat-traumatized asshole who’s a master of nothing but chaos and incapable of getting his act together, and that the only thing to do is to get the hell out of Dodge and let this dickhead stew in his own juices?”
Mickey is a realist and mature for her age, but she nonetheless believes she has no choice but to take care of her poor, pissed-off, born-to-lose dad. And this unfortunate mindset is what holds things together for the duration.
There’s an insensitive asshole boyfriend (Ben Rosenfield) to deal with, and a promising new guy — a British-accented, mocha-tint boyfriend named Wyatt (Calvin Demba) who, of course, is instantly resented and antagonized by racist Hank. The right way to go is so obvious, but Mickey…well, she’s transitioning.
Hank-wise I understood what Mickey had to do within the first 10 or 15 minutes, but she keeps thinking that her dad might somehow wake up, grow up and pull his head out of his ass. Not happening, girl! The reality finally sinks in around the 96-minute mark, or just before the end credits.
For me Mickey and the Bear is a major break-out for Morrone, who clearly has “it” in the way that Jennifer Lawrence was obviously similarly possessed when Winter’s Bone was first seen nine and a half years ago. The 22 year-old former model and current girlfriend of Leonardo DiCaprio has only been in a couple of previous films, Eli Roth‘s Death Wish and Augustine Frizzell‘s Never Goin’ Back.
But this…this performance is a knockdown. Morrone doesn’t reinvent the wheel of acting but every line, gesture and expression feels honestly arrived at and dispensed. She’s dishy, of course, but plays every scene without makeup or regard for her appearance other than no-frills, bares-bones grooming. And she never resorts to defensive posturing or calculated “look at my acting skills” behavior.
The screening happened at San Vicente Bungalows. There was a nice, not-too-crowded after-party. DiCaprio held court, and Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn and I spoke to him about several topics (the forthcoming lKillers of the Flower Moon for director Martin Scorsese, the Democratic Presidential contenders, climate change) for a good…oh, 15 or even 20 minutes. Nobody was trying to muscle in, which was unexpected.
Morrone was there also, of course — very gifted and gracious. Ditto screenwriter Eric Roth, director Phillip Noyce, Tobey Maguire, director Eli Roth, event maestro Colleen Camp, etc.
I left around 9:30 pm for the Netflix Marriage Story party at the Sunset Tower hotel, which was well-catered and packed to the gills.