Phoenix Film Festival Review: Thomas Beatty's Teddy Bears

Teddy Bears is a story about an indecent proposal.
Teddy Bears is a story about an indecent proposal.
Courtesy of Allied PR.

If you're going to make a film based on a zany idea, say, a man who wants to have an orgy with his friends' girlfriends in order to heal from his mother's recent passing, you're going to take a lot of care to not make it a gimmick. You're going to have to make your characters believable and their emotions realistic. You're definitely going to have to make more to the story than just a sad man who wants to have sex with three women, but Teddy Bears, which made its Phoenix Film Festival première on Sunday, April 6, just didn't do any of that.

See also: Phoenix Film Festival Review: Louise Archambault's Gabrielle

Director Thomas Beatty doesn't have much under his belt in terms of directing. Seeing him at the film festival, you could tell he was excited and nervous to show his film. Unfortuately, his "worst nightmare" happened when the film repeatedly skipped and cut out 10 minutes before it finished, essentially taking all drama out of the ending scenes. Guess it isn't all rosy going to a full digital format.

That aside, Beatty's story was so unbelievable. With strong indie film aesthetics, you could tell he was going for that Little Miss Sunshine vibe but ended up with a pretty disingenuous tale of a man on a mission. The plot didn't need to insist on the orgy element of the film, which was obviously why audiences were drawn in, but it clung to that element, allowing you to think of pretty much no other aspect of the characters other than how they will react to the orgy proposition.

While the lead, played by 10 Things I Hate About You's David Krumholtz, was a creepy, sad, voyeuristic mess who was downright unlikable in most scenes, there were a few performances that overshadowed his.  

Melanie Lynskey, who you'll also recognize from '90s fame in films such as Ever After, managed to be charming, lifelike, goofy, sad, frustrated, and confused, giving a performance that opposed Krumholtz's insincere, odd character. Lynskey acted like how anyone would act in the situation -- embarrassed, awkward, and disturbed -- but still managed to interact with her friend, played by Gillian Jacobs, in a way that felt natural and light hearted. Even Jacobs (Community) managed to escape her character archetype of a likable airhead hippie to show a partially hashed out human whenever the plot allowed.

However, even the strengths of the female performances couldn't save the film, which bounced between moments of sincerity to shtick to sheer frustration. We heard one audience member audibly sigh in annoyance when Lynskey's character asked Krumholtz's, "What if we don't get through this?" and he responded, "Then it wasn't meant to be." Sigh is right.

When it was finished, some of the characters came up good and others had broken up, with being in a relationship apparently acting as the gauge of happiness. Aside from that, there was no moral or message that resonated in the film. Nothing to learn, nothing to really feel --other than maybe some mild frustration and being creeped out more than a little bit.

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