DVD Review - Teddy Bear (2012)
Teddy Bear is an expansion of that short film. Mads Matthiesen won the Directing Award for World Cinema at the Sundance Film Festival. His film was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize there. It was up for Best Film at the Bodil Awards, which is Denmark's Critics Awards. It was also nominated for Best Film at the Robert Awards, which is Denmark's version of the Oscars. The European Film Awards cited Mads Matthiesen as European Discovery of the Year.
Kim Kold plays Dennis, a 38-year-old former bodybuilder who now works as a security guard. Like the short film, the movie opens with Dennis on a date with a blonde and vapid, tanning salon owner. He doesn't bring her home for one because they have no chemistry and two because Dennis still lives at home with his mother Ingrid, played by Elsebeth Steentoft.
That on its own is not so bizarre, but, as you watch the relationship and living habits between Dennis and his mother, you learn that things might not be all that healthy. First off, Dennis is nearly 40 years-old, yet his mother was waiting up for him for when he came home, and not only that but she was also overly worried. Dennis didn't tell her that he was on a date with a girl because he anticipates that Ingrid would be jealous or possessive, which she is.
It may not be an issue for Europeans, but Americans might flinch at the fact that while Dennis showers with the curtain open, Ingrid enters and uses the toilet without asking permission or even announcing herself, despite being in full view of her naked and wet son. This isn't necessarily unhealthy, but it shows a lack of boundaries, which could lend itself to unhealthy situations.
At a family dinner, Dennis meets his uncle's new wife who is half his uncle's age and from Thailand. It's intimated that the uncle practically bought and paid for his wife. It's also clear that his uncle is in love and happy. Dennis goes to his uncle and gets his uncle to connect him to the same people who helped his uncle find his Thailand wife. Dennis lies to his mother and tells her he's going to a bodybuilding competition in Germany. He then leaves for Thailand.
When Dennis gets there, he seems to be put into a pimp and prostitution scenario, which he doesn't want. He doesn't want to pay for sex, or even have sex at all, but he seems not to understand how to get into a conversation with a girl by himself. How he got the opening date with the tanning salon owner is unknown. It's a wonder why he would go to such a distance or such a degree.
If he's not into prostitution, why would he even go to Thailand at all? Maybe he's a little naive, but he's not so stupid that he doesn't get what or where he's going. Perhaps, screenwriters Mads Matthiesen and Martin Zandvliet are making a commentary on Danish women. Maybe they think Danish women don't appreciate a man like Dennis, so he has to go to these extremes.
There's a behavior pattern that I felt was weird. Any time the women in Thailand act impressed over Dennis' large biceps and pectorals, Dennis is turned off and retreats further into his shell. Yet, Dennis seeks solace inside a Thailand gym. After pumping iron with another male bodybuilder, Dennis peels his shirt off and spends a good chunk of time flexing and admiring his muscles in a mirror.
I found it odd that Dennis would be all for muscle worship in one scene and not so in another. What is he a bodybuilder for, if not to have people, especially women, worship or admire his muscles? Ironically, none of the so-called prostitutes interest him, but a girl that does interest him is Toi, the girl who owns the gym across from his hotel. Lamaiporn Hougaard plays Toi, a widow who likes picnics on the beach and riding motorbikes through the streets.
The only distinction between her and the so-called prostitutes is that despite owning a gym, she's not all that interested in Dennis' muscles. Dennis and Toi have a sweet, if brief romance, which seems to get blown up to something bigger rather too quickly. It's only after a weekend together, Dennis and Toi are moving in together and that basically she's leaving Thailand for him. We're to assume they fell in love after one picnic on the beach, but I'm not sure Matthiesen and Zandvliet give the two of them enough to sell that.
It's not that a brief romance can't be sold between two people who only spend a day or so together. Richard Linklater did it in Before Sunrise (1995). Andrew Haigh did it in Weekend (2011), but Matthiesen and Zandvliet don't do it here. They shortcut it, so that they could make a larger point.
Dennis returns home and tells his mom Ingrid the truth and she tells him to choose between her and his Thailand girlfriend. Normally, that would be a ridiculous choice, but Steentoft's performance gets you to accept that as a legitimate stake. There is a co-dependency that seemed to exist between Dennis and Ingrid. We don't get why that dependency exists, so the impact of what Dennis ultimately decides doesn't hit as hard.
It does have a great sequence toward the end that's straight out a sitcom. It's funny and at the same time sad, and I enjoyed it very much.
Three Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but recommended for 14 and Up.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 36 mins.