Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook

Postby CAP » Mon Mar 18, 2013 1:33 pm

Finally saw this Oscar winner as a brief escape from sitting in traffic, listening to shit radio and trying not to get too down about cold calling. Pulled over and went into a Cineplex and opted for Silver Linings, mainly on the strength of Jennifer Lawrence. What the hell it’s cheap day for day sessions and a couple of hours isn’t going to make much difference. Anyway it’s basically a Rom-Com that starts off very bleakly and grows increasingly rosy to the point of schlock. I sense the ingratiating hand of the Weinsteins’ production company in this, as with most things they touch. But the first third is pretty good black comedy. The male lead, Bradley Cooper is just as good as Lawrence, but missed an Oscar. I hadn’t seen him before. The film is written and directed by David O. Russell ( I Heart Huckerbees) and very loosely based on a novel by Matthew Quick.

The story is about Pat, a mid-thirties mental patient suffering from bi-polar disorder (in my day I think this was called manic depression). After eight months in an asylum he’s released in the care of his mother and moves back to a lower class suburb of Philadelphia. The reason he was locked away is because he came home one evening to find his wife in the shower with one her colleagues and proceeded to beat the living shit out of him. Taken together with other stressful aspects of his life, this is counted as a Bi-Po episode and he misses gaol for a spell in the loony bin. Pat is resolved to win his wife back and straighten himself out, but he still has to take powerful medications and attend group therapy sessions, although he recklessly believes he has recovered enough to do without them. The comedy first comes from his aged parents struggling to cope with the manic zeal of their son, his eccentric and violent tantrums. Pat has also shed a lot of weight and become a jogging nut, as part of his self-devised recovery regime, or playbook. His jogging allows him to meet up with old neighbourhood friends, but there is a restraining order preventing him from contacting his wife.

He is invited to a dinner where he is paired off with an old friend’s sister-in-law, Tiffany, a recent widow with her own psychological damage. They are of course made for each other and one of the highlights of the film is when they wordlessly eye one another off upon introduction. Oh yeah zzzzzt right there. More comedy follows as Pat tries to pretend she is crazier than he and that he’s not really interested because he’s determined to win his wife back, when actually, he deliberately chooses to jog past her house only to have her catch him (later it transpires, on a tip-off from Pat’s mother). This is really the high point of the film, as they date and misfire. From there on there’s much tortured plotting to involve the fortunes of his father, reconciliation with his brother, the local Philadelphia football team, a dance contest that will team Pat and Tiffany against Dancing with the Stars, basically, and a nod to multi-cultural tolerance. I think this is called covering all bases and then some. Up to a point the farcical about-faces as Tiffany suddenly becomes a football expert, his shrink turns into a football tragic, are all part of the fun, but they gradually steer the story away from private demons to formulaic mush and while the film is finally awash in silver linings, the clouds are left looking a good deal less credible.

Russell is obviously good with actors, dialogue and has a terrific comic timing, but sadly no eye or visual elegance. Early scenes where Pat ransacks the house searching for his wedding video seem clumsy and confuse the character’s turmoil for that of the camera operator. The jogging sequences seem strangely awkward, something about the distance between Pat and Tiffany, not quite right, visually. So I don’t think it’s a great film, but I can see why it’s a popular one. Give it 8.
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