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Aubrey Plaza, star, and Lawrence Michael Levine, writer/director of Black Bear

Momentum Pictures releases Black Bear in select theaters and VOD on December 4th, 2020.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Who do you think is ultimately responsible for opening the window into a character's heart, mind and soul?

Aubrey Plaza: I think that it's a team effort. It's a combination between everyone: the director, the DPs--the way that they're shooting it, and the actors. There are all kinds of things that go into that.

Lawrence Michael Levine: Once that you've got the script, the performance is of paramount importance and the rest of the stuff is supportive. Aubrey's performance could have been shot in a variety of ways and still worked. The music could've been composed in a variety of ways and the movie still would've worked on some levels. Once you're shooting a movie, the writing of the movie is also crucial.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Aubrey, which was it harder to dive into when it comes to portraying Allison in Black Bear: her heart, mind or soul?  

AP: I don't know. I guess I would say "heart" because I think that this one, for me, felt very personal, very close to home and allowed me to explore a lot of things that I've experienced that infused itself into the character and into the scenes. So, I think that all three were challenging, but I think this one was heartbreaking. I would describe it as heartbreaking for myself, in a lot of ways.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you think projecting yourself onto a character you play is natural? Do you think it's something that can be turned off?  

AP: It's a natural part of the process for me. I don't think that it's always the case, but, at least the way that I work is that I find that the acting process can be really therapeutic and useful in working out unresolved issues and traumas that you've experienced. Not everyone likes to work that way, but I think that I do, sometimes. I think that all I have to draw on is myself and my own experiences and what's happened to me in the world. That's all that I really know. So, on some level, there's always a little bit of projection, but it depends on the character.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How important do you think a movie's plot is, ultimately, especially when it comes to a movie like Black Bear?  

LML: It depends on the movie that you're making. For a murder mystery like Murder on the Orient Express, plot is at the front whereas in a film like this, the plot sort of recedes. What's more important are the moment-to-moment interactions and emotions of the character. I think that plot-driven movies have a place, but movies that are simpler in terms of plot can also be interesting and resonant.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you think that there's a negative stigma to confusion? What's wrong with being confused while watching a movie?  

LML: In some ways, that's what this movie is about. This movie is about confusion. The only thing that's wrong with confusion is that it's often painful. A lot of movies, particularly commercial ones, tend to spoon-feed the audience simple truths or what purports to be simple truths about life, but with my experience in life, it's very hard to reduce to simple meanings. Once you think you've gotten a hold on it and finally understand your life and what you're doing in it, something comes along that completely undermines that. I wanted Black Bear to reflect that truth. Confusion was definitely something that I made an attempt to dive into with this movie. It's a fertile ground to explore. I don't think that there's anything wrong with exploring it from an artistic perspective, but I know what you mean: most commercial cinema works very hard to make sure that its audiences are never confused. Black Bear cultivates the opposite effect.

AP: Not in terms of the film's effect on the audience, but in terms of the character, I think that there's nothing wrong with confusion. It's a natural part of life and it's an experience that we can all relate to. I think that what's wrong about it is if it's being fueled by someone gaslighting you. That kind of confusion is really devastating and something that a lot of people can also relate to. When you're confused or, as my therapist calls it, "mystified", by something because you're being gaslit, it's a bad situation. I think that that's when it's wrong. No one needs to be gaslit or confused because they're being manipulated.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What do you think is the purpose of struggle in life? Would you like to live life without it?  

AP: No, that's when you feel alive. Sometimes when people are struggling and trying to get to the place where they want to go, they look back on those days and go, "I think I was the most happiest then. Now I've gotten to where I'm going and I'm miserable." So, there's something about struggle that connects you with the world around you and the people around you in a way that makes you present and engaged. It's necessary.  Of course we don't want to struggle to the point of breaking, but I think that there's something really rewarding about struggling.

LML: That's exactly how I feel about it. I couldn't have said it better myself. For example, in my life, I went through a really difficult break-up in my late 20s. She was someone who I thought I was going to get married to who I had been with for a long time. The dissolution of the relationship was something extremely difficult and an impossible struggle to get over. When I look back on it now, I'm glad that it happened. I needed to move on and needed that to happen to me. The pain that I experienced through it connected me to the world in a deeper way. So, it's good to know that what seems like a struggle at a certain time in your life can actually be something positive. It's good to keep that in mind.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What films do you think would pair well with Black Bear in a double feature? Are there any fictional characters who you think are kindred spirits with Allison from Black Bear?

AP: Larry paired Lost Highway with Black Bear for a screening in New York and I felt like it was a very good pairing, but I never said that to him until now.  

LML: Oh, thanks! Cool!

AP: Maybe Gena Rowlands in Opening Night. That'd be a good pairing with Black Bear.

LML: All About Eve.

AP: Mulholland Drive.

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