INFINITELY POLAR BEAR – Review by Susan Granger

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Maya Forbes’ episodic, autobiographical family comedy is based on her own confusing childhood in the late 1970s in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her father, Donald Cameron Forbes, was manic-depressive or bi-polar, once writing on a hospital admission form that he was “infinitely polar bear.” Chain-smoking Cam Stuart (Mark Ruffalo) is impulsive, unpredictable and eccentric, he adores his wife, Maggie (Zoe Saldana), and their two precocious daughters, Faith (Ashley Aufderheide) and Amelia (Imogene Wolodarsky). Read on…

While Cam comes from wealth, he’s unable to hold a job. Both Cam and his patrician parents (Keir Dullea, Beth Dixon) are dependent on bits of money doled by his grandmother, the matriarch of an old Boston blue-blood family.

So it falls to Maggie to be the bread-winner. To that end, she gets a scholarship to earn her M.B.A. at Columbia University. For the 18 months she’s in New York, troubled Cam must fight to hold it all together to take care of the spirited, grade school-age girls in a cramped, cluttered apartment.

In the pivotal leading role, Mark Ruffalo (“Foxcatcher,” “The Hulk”) artfully combines rumpled resentment over the hard choices they’re forced to make with a mercurial abundance of humor, love – and Lithium. While Zoe Saldana is sympathetic and believable, her role seems oddly underwritten in comparison with his.

Deftly glossing over the darker aspects of mental illness, innately optimistic Maya Forbes helms her first feature film with insight and sensitivity, deftly integrating sequences from some of her late father’s Super 8 home movies.

In college, Maya Forbes wrote for The Harvard Lampoon, then moved to Los Angeles, where she spent four years as a writer/producer on HBO’s “The Larry Sanders Show.” She’s married to writer/producer Wally Wolodarsky and 12 year-old Imogene is their real-life daughter. Maya also writes songs with her younger sister, China Forbes, lead singer of the band Pink Martini.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Infinitely Polar Bear” is an engaging, enigmatic 8, an offbeat, feel-good film that tugs at your heartstrings.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.