MICKEY AND THE BEAR – Review by Carol Cling

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Baseball legend (and malaprop master) Yogi Berra would have been a perceptive movie critic.

Consider how well one of his signature comments — “It’s like deja vu all over again” — suits Mickey and the Bear. But mostly in a good way.

There are times when this coming-of-age drama — about an often-overwhelmed teen struggling to deal with her father, a troubled Iraq War veteran — plays like an inadvertent variation on Debra Granik’s 2018’s powerful Leave No Trace.

Yet this feature debut from writer-director Annabelle Attanasio (daughter of Oscar-nominated Quiz Show screenwriter Paul Attanasio), fresh from the festival circuit, overcomes a somewhat derivative storyline to forge its own identity.

In part, that’s due to the movie’s evocative setting: the Montana mining town of Anaconda, where reminders of its prosperous past contrast with a more precarious present.

Yet even scenic Big Sky Country can prove painfully confining, as the movie’s title character discovers.

High school senior Mickey Peck (Camila Morrone) is turning 18 — and facing more than the usual teenage traumas.

That’s because she’s essentially switched roles with her father Hank (James Badge Dale), a battle-battered ex-Marine who spends his days playing video games, knocking back booze, inhaling opioids — and wondering “where’s my (expeletive deleted) life?”

Mickey’s mother has died of cancer (“everybody gets cancer in Anaconda,” one character matter-of-factly observes), so it’s up to the youngster to be the adult in the family.

She cooks, she cleans, she cradles Hank as he drops off to troubled sleep — and hides Hank’s multiple guns while she’s at school or working at a local taxidermy shop.

There’s also Mickey’s demanding boyfriend (Ben Rosenfield), whose insufferable behavior bears more than a slight resemblance to that of her maddening dad.

No wonder Mickey finds herself drawn to a more sensitive classmate (Calvin Demba), even as her father’s existence — and, consequently, her own — spiral ever downward.

Mickey and the Bear pursues its grim narrative with relentless determination — and, in the process, occasionally overplays its hand.

More often, however, the movie plays to its strengths, including striking imagery and Attanasio’s ability to build sympathy for her characters without sentimentalizing them — or their circumstances.

Primarily, however, Mickey and the Bear showcases Morrone and Dale’s compelling, complementary performances. Separately and together, they convey the ways a father and daughter can love each other, lose each other — and wish there were some other way to live.

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Carol Cling

Carol Cling served as the Las Vegas Review-Journal's film critic for more than 30 years, reviewing movies and covering movie and TV production in Las Vegas, from Casino to CSI. An honors graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, she also has studied film at the American Film Institute and the BBC