The best moviegoing experiences often feel like fever dreams — delirious, vivid, and something you can laugh at even in the midst of the terror. So far, 2023 has been good to us, as a culture, in very few ways, save for these types of films; it was a mere seven weeks ago that M3GAN menacingly danced into the collective consciousness, and now Cocaine Bear is here to join her, complete with enlarged pupils and a white powder-caked nose.
Simply put, it was love at first trailer viewing. The NYLON team was enraptured by our first glimpses of Cocaine Bear, a film that looked too insane to exist, let alone be based off a true story. A movie about a bear that becomes so dangerously addicted to cocaine that it turns her (yes, her, as Cocaine Bear is a figurative and literal mother) from a relatively harmless forest-dwelling creature into a bloodthirsty murderer, has all the makings of a camp classic. The dark comedy knows exactly what it is: an unapologetic good time.
Moving on from the thoroughly captivating premise, Cocaine Bear is rounded out by amusing comedic performances, a soundtrack of perfectly placed '80s bangers, and genuinely freaky jump scares with gory ends. Were there plot holes, like, say, why the titular character's appetite was ravenous despite consuming several pounds of cocaine? Sure, but if there's any film to practice the art of suspending disbelief, it's Cocaine Bear.
Utilizing the perks of our jobs, the NYLON editorial team saw an early screening of Cocaine Bear in a little New York neighborhood called Times Square. And when in Rome, we did as Romans do and debriefed our thoughts on the film at Margaritaville. Read our roundtable, below, and watch Cocaine Bear in (a preferably packed) theater, now.
The following contains major spoilers for Cocaine Bear.
Alyssa Vingan: I didn't go see M3GAN with you guys, but I think this was the most fun movie theater experience I’ve had in at least five or six years. Everyone was losing their minds.
Sam Neibart: It has to be seen in a full theater, for sure.
Layla Halabian: I'm glad it wasn't a normal press screening where everyone's serious and taking notes. Because I’m always like, "No! You're supposed to have a good time!"
Sophia June: It's the perfect thing, because even with M3GAN, you can feel like, "Oh, I wonder if the movie is saying this or that…" And Cocaine Bear is unbridled fun, purely unserious.
AV: I think we all knew it was going to be ridiculous, but I did not expect how over-the-top gory that would be.
SN: I will say I wanted to go to the movies with everyone and I did no further research into Cocaine Bear other than the title. No notes, it's a perfect description. It’s definitely about a bear on cocaine.
SJ: It’s kinda sweet. She really is enjoying herself.
SN: She loved cocaine, she loved her cubs, and they loved cocaine, too.
LH: The little cubs immediately being addicts was incredible to see.
SJ: And the children! I leaned over to Alyssa and I was like, “I can’t watch a child get mauled.” It was gory, but it was also… tasteful? Like no children (or bears) died for this movie.
Steffanee Wang: It was really beautiful how at the end it was two mothers and their children that ultimately survived the journey.
Kelly Reed: We need a follow-up with the guy in the yellow shirt. How did he get out? Did he make it to New York?
LH: Yes, the twink!
SN: The biggest laugh of the whole movie is when he has his arms up and he just tilts his hip.
LH: You and I were dying at that.
SN: It was an unspoken moment.
AV: I do feel like Cocaine Bear is going to become a camp classic. I do not see how it will not be something that kids watch stoned in college forever. We're doing a bad job at our [review] if it doesn’t become that.
SJ: There are not a lot of movies that talk about coke in such a fun way. There’s a lot of stoner comedies —
SN: — And not enough cokehead comedies.
LH: The children were very knowledgeable about cocaine. I had a visceral reaction when they ate a heaping teaspoon of coke, and I think the entire theater did, too. I also screamed at every single jump scare.
SJ: There were a lot! And they were very good.
SW: They deserve every jump scare.
AV: It was a very stressful moviegoing experience. I feel like I was holding my head in my hands a lot, not wanting to see what was coming.
SN: I had hope every single time that someone was going to get out of it. I couldn't accept it and then, towards the end I was nervous.
KR: The ambulance scene was so funny.
AV: Shout-out Margo Martindale! She did a great job.
SW: The only other context I know her in is BoJack Horseman, so it was nice to see her in real life and not as an animated character.
[We got distracted because our Margaritaville server arrived with six margaritas specials, because it also happened to be National Margarita Day.]
LH: It was cool how the film was historically accurate with little details, like the Gucci loafers. When they found the parachuting drug dealer’s body, that’s what he was wearing. That type of attention to detail is what makes Cocaine Bear a period piece, ultimately.
AV: I thought the music was really good. The opening song was the same opening song as Wet Hot American Summer, “Jane” by Jefferson Starship. I feel like all the other corny '80s songs were also very well chosen.
SN: Was it “Just Can't Get Enough” by Depeche Mode during the ambulance scene? That was perfect.
SW: That music is probably what saved me from getting too freaked out. Even in the gory, "scary” scenes, it was still so happy. And then you’re rooting for everyone to die.
LH: I was like, “Go bear!”
SW: Literally! At first I was like, "Oh, my God. All these people are dying." And I was like, "Wait, the protagonist is the bear…"
SN: The titular character.
SJ: Justice for the single moms out there.
LH: We have Lorelai Gilmore, Cocaine Bear…
SJ: And Keri Russell.
[We got distracted because Margaritaville’s photographer began taking 10-12 flash photographs of us.]
SJ: It’s so hard to be a midtown celebrity at Margaritaville.
AV: Where's the Cobrasnake? Actually, he’s probably in midtown...
LH: His Margaritaville residency is on the horizon.
SW: Wait, Elizabeth Banks. Can we just give props to her for executing that?
SN: I will say that I expected the final twist to be that Keri Russell and Alden Ehrenreich were going to get together. I thought that was going to be your final joke, like, "He's a good guy!"
LH: That’s for the sequel, Meth Bear.
SN: What was the bear’s story? She showed up with a little nick in her ear, a little scar. She had a past!
LH: I also can't believe that Ray Liotta’s final on-screen role was one where his entrails were pulled out and snacked on by bear cubs.
AV: That [scene] is where I hid inside my sweater and stayed there.
[“Margaritaville” by Jimmy Buffet plays and the majority of the restaurant begins singing along]
SJ: They must play it on the hour here. If I came here and they didn’t play it…
LH: It’s the makings of a lawsuit.
SW: I also love that the first tourists in the movie were distinctly… European.
AV: Was the little girl [Brooklynn Prince] the same actress who starred in The Florida Project?
LH: Oh, my God. That’s where she’s from! She’s honestly a great actress.
AV: Love her. She broke my heart in The Florida Project, too.
SW: That movie was so sad, I think I fully blocked it out of my mind.
[“Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran Duran starts blasting]
SN: This song should have been in the movie.
AV: What do we think opening weekend for Cocaine Bear is going to be?
LH: I think it's going to be huge.
SJ: I think it's a movie that is truly for everyone.
AV: It is for everyone, whether you’ve done cocaine or not.
SJ: It’s funnier if you have. I would imagine.
AV: I thought the bear had a heart attack and died on top of that guy, but she was just tired from her bender!
SN: She’s tired from the bender and raising her two children.
[The Margaritaville photographer returned with a printed copy of our group photograph]
SN: That goes on the fridge.
LH: Wow, the memories. Things are really operating at a different frequency here.
SJ: I truly feel like I'm in a fun house and all I'm doing is sitting down.
SN: When was the last time you ordered a six dollar drink anywhere?
SJ: In this economy?
SN: They don’t have inflation in Margaritaville.
SJ: Their economy is stable.
LH: The Margaritaville dollar is strong.
AV: This has been the best four hours of my life. I feel young at heart, thanks to Cocaine Bear and Margaritaville.
SJ: You don't even have to do cocaine to get high from Cocaine Bear.
SN: That's the tag line. That’s on the movie poster.
SW: They really fleshed out all the characters.
SN: Actually, at the beginning, I was confused. I was like, "There are too many people in this movie! We’re in different cities. They're captioning it. How am I going to know all this, like players in the game?” And you know what? They sewed it up!
LH: It was very Love Actually-adjacent of them to do it like that. Instead of the main thread being love and Christmas, it was a bear on cocaine.
AV: The most gratuitous death… what's the guy's name from Modern Family? Who died in the tree?
SN: Jesse Tyler Ferguson. That was very hard for me to watch.
SW: That was Jesse Ferguson? Oh, my God.
SN: I only probably know that because I saw his name in the opening credits and I'm like, "Where is this man?"
SW: Me, too! I was like, "Oh, great. I can keep an eye out for him.” But I totally missed that.
LH: When the bear gets a whiff of the cocaine on his shirt… that was cinematic.
SN: I did really love the whole sequence at the gazebo. I love when the bear squashes Eddie.
SJ: I thought he died when the bear sat on him! I thought it was over!
SN: I thought, “Well that’s a creative death!” but it kept getting better.
KR: It’s like when the bear falls off the cliff, you think that’s it.
SN: I was so sad when I thought Cocaine Bear died on the cliff. I was like, "Noooo!"
LH: You cannot take a mother out like that. Do we have any closing thoughts?
AV: I feel like the point cannot be driven home strongly enough that you have to go see this in a packed theater. And don't bring too many friends. It's probably funnier with strangers. I was laughing at some of the comments from people behind me.
SW: When someone was like, "Shoot the bear!"
SN: This movie and Top Gun are going to revive American movies.
AV: Honestly, similar vibes. At least the music and the fashion.
SN: Everyone's a hero.
LH: In America, anything can happen, and that's a beautiful thing.
KR: I feel like we’re going to see everyone dressing as Cocaine Bear for Halloween.
AV: Sexy Cocaine Bear. Cocaine Bear BF, M3GAN GF.
SN: Halloween 2023, get the SEO post going now: “Cocaine Bear Makeup.”
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