Monday, August 20, 2012

Mads Matthiesen's aptly titled TEDDY BEAR tracks a Danish body builder's need for love

I can't recall a character in a film who fits his film's title any better than TEDDY BEAR -- the movie by Danish director Mads Matthiesen that stars a great big teddy bear named Kim Kold, playing a body builder on the brink of turning forty who feels the increasing need for the love of a woman other than his mom. Mr. Kold is a body builder: One look at him and there's no getting around this fact. And whether or not he is anything like the shy, sad man of few words that he plays here, his performance is so real, natural and unforced that you'll want -- repeatedly throughout this sweet, small movie -- to give him a warm hug and assure the guy that everything, somehow, is going to be all right.

It's a slight little story that co-writer (with Martin Zandvliet) and director Matthiesen (shown at right) have to tell, which is based on a short film called Dennis (the main character's name) that they made back in 2007. After a disastrous "date" with a young woman he knows from his local gym, Dennis and his mom (Elsebeth Steentoft, below, right) attend a family gathering to cele-brate the marriage of a male relative who has brought his new bride back to Denmark from Thailand. An idea hatches and soon our big bear (shown below) is off to points both south and exotic to try his luck with those tasty and quite accommodating Thai girls, while managing to get out from under his uber-controlling mom, who's now angry and alone.

That's it, really, so far as plot is concerned. But as so often happens, not just in movies but in life, plans fall apart and the unplanned takes over and turns out to work much better. I shall spare you any details, mostly because the movie has so few that telling anything more about its wisp of a plot would border on independent-film abuse.

Instead we'll introduce some characters met along the way: the feisty but foolish fellow (above, right) who sets up these "meetings" between tourists (generally sex tourists) and the girls;

one of these girls, above, who is certainly pretty enough but perhaps a tad too pushy for our quiet guy;

and another young lady (above) who owns the Bangkok gym where Dennis goes to work out, while away on his "hunting" trip.

Mainly the movie is Dennis himself, and Mr. Kold, above and below, is so completely there (and often completely clueless) that your heart goes out to him so fully and so often that you may feel by film's end that it is no longer your own.

Even with all of this, there is little sense of manipulation at work. The movie's simply too simple and unpushy for that. Dennis is ours and we're his, and a more genuinely appealing leading man has not appeared on the international film screen in quite some time.
Eat your heart out, Arnold.

Teddy Bear, via Film Movement, opens this Wednesday, August 22, at Film Forum in New York City and in Miami at the Tower Theater on Friday August 24. And, as with all Film Movement titles, it will eventually appear on DVD and perhaps even on Netflix streaming.

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