Streaming Releases: BRUCE!!! (2019) - Reviewed

From confusion and suspense, to discomfort, BRUCE!!!, takes the audience on a roller coaster of emotion.  Co-written (along with Jesse Wakeman), directed and starring Eden Marryshow, this comedy about Bruce, a manipulative narcissist, is tough to watch at times.    

Bruce just broke up with a girlfriend and is now about to lose his best friend and roommate.  His lifelong buddy, Greg, (played by Jason Tottenham) is becoming a father and is moving out with the mother of his child. The audience watches Bruce, a struggling actor/screenwriter and failing dog walker as he spirals out of control, taking advantage of and manipulating everyone in his life.  When he meets Keira (played by Mle Chester), the woman of his dreams, he assumes she will fall in love and make everything better for him.  She doesn’t.  She doesn’t even want him.  Eventually, Bruce loses everything.  He realizes he needs a new outlook on life, and that he needs to start over.  He remembers that being an asshole is always a choice.

Though the movie is a comedy, with moments that are not so serious, the subject matter can get heavy.  There are very awkward moments, like when Bruce springs a family dinner on Kiera.   It’s an embarrassing scene, where you can almost feel the tension between Bruce’s family and Kiera, but Bruce, in his own world, doesn’t seem to notice. There are a few scenes that are extremely uncomfortable where Bruce won’t take no for an answer and acts rapey to women multiple times.

Many of the jokes in the film rely on typical sex-shaming tropes that I have seen time and time again in “bro” comedies.  For example, an undesirable girl in the movie is enthused about sex and wants to be choked.  The entire scene is a joke about that.  In another scene, Bruce, desperate for any type of validation, meets up with a girl from a Craigslist casual encounter that ends up being a big joke. Bruce needs a little more of what that encounter offered, if you ask me!  

Throughout the movie, it’s easy to dislike Bruce. He uses women, treats his best friend like crap, takes advantage of his mother, and even shows light homophobia to his sister and her girlfriend.  He is in every scene; the movie is about HIM.  However, through camera movement and placement, which is very subtle, it can be interpreted that even though this is so, the audience shouldn’t necessarily be rooting for him.  For instance, in the dinner scene, Bruce is positioned much lower than anyone else in the room.  He is in a low chair and is in the bottom half of the screen.  This drives home that he is behaving in a way that makes him “lower” than the rest of his family.

By the end of the movie, the message of the story is revealed.  What is satisfying about this ending is that Bruce still has many of the problems he faces throughout the movie.  They are apparent even in the way he tries to redeem himself. But that was what was satisfying about it.  Even knowing this, the audience leaves on a hopeful note. Was it worth all the uncomfortable scenes and embarrassing moments to get to it? Maybe for some, it will be.  I am someone who wants to watch people being killed in creative and gory ways. This makes me feel good.  On the other hand, something like a narcissist treating their lifelong friend like garbage is very upsetting and hits way too close to home.  BRUCE!!! is a very real comedy - in no way escapist or comforting.  Bruce, and everyone in his life are realistic characters.  It’s easy to relate to everyone in this movie, even Bruce himself at times.

--Mara Powell