Look out Michael Keaton, there is a more dysfunctional Mr. Mom in town. Maya Forbes' directorial debut is quite the roller coaster. Infinitely Polar Bear is a zany look at a family struggling with mental illness. At the center of the film is the father, Cameron, played by Mark Ruffalo, who struggles with bi-polar disorder. He is a rambunctious character who chain smokes and swears like a sailor. When we first meet Cameron and his family, they are living the bohemian lifestyle until suddenly Cameron suffers a nervous breakdown and is briefly hospitalized. The family dynamic is shaken-up and the mother, Maggie, played by Zoe Saldana, has to go to go back school to make money for the family. Because of this, Cameron, now unemployed, has to take care of his two daughters while Maggie is away.
Cameron is an unconventional but effective father. On the other hand, he struggles as a husband, not always emotionally stable enough to support his wife. The film itself is very contrived, tackling mental illness with more comedy than sentimentality. If Forbes toned back on the jokes, it would have enhanced the film. I do, however, understand that sometimes laughter is the best medicine; however, in this film, it seemed a bit too much.
This film is autobiographical, based on Forbes' upbringing, a touching tribute to a father that always had his daughter's best interests at heart. Overall, Infinitely Polar Bear is a solid effort for Forbes' debut, but it seems too sketchy to be effective and focuses more on the well being of the kids than on the father with the mental illness.