Saturday, November 24
REVIEW: Silver Linings Playbook
Directed by David O. Russell
2012 Comedy Drama
2 hours 2 minutes
From the Weinstein Company
Just as I do with some actors, I follow the work of some directors, too. One of my favorites is David O. Russell. He first came to my attention in 1996 when I saw the quirky Flirting with Disaster, which I was strangely drawn to. I was delighted when three years later I saw Three Kings. War movies are not my favorites but I fancied this one. I admit I had to see I Heart Huckabees twice before I embraced it. Then in 2010 came The Fighter, one of my favorite movies in the past 5-6 years. In all the films mentioned so far, he has had a hand in the writing. I love the way Russell invests in his characters. Like them or not, you get where these flesh and blood characters are coming from. I have seen Russell on interviews with his casts and they all profess undying love for one another. His films all seem like new exciting lovers to Russell and they give back to him much of what he gives to them. Now, if you're lucky enough, there's his current offering, Silver Linings Playbook. It is another banana split with a big red cherry on the top. Eat it up.
I know folks will eat it up as well. This has a guaranteed following because it has elements in it that will appeal to all age groups from young teenagers to those older folks who still enjoy good films in a theater.
I have a confession. I knew very little about Jennifer Lawrence and had seen none of her films. I thought she was gorgeous as a blonde in a long red gown at the Oscars but who was she? I wanted to see Winter's Bone, the film she was nominated for, but never got around to it. I am annoyed when they slip away but this one did. I think I can promise I will see it in the next week or so. I had no desire really in seeing Hunger Games but because of her there is some interest here now too. I spent an hour or so checking her out on the web because I hate being behind the 8-ball like this.
Oh there's more. I only knew a teensy bit more about Bradley Cooper. (And I call myself Movie Man...!) I looked up his films today and realize I have seen couple of them, but I can honestly say I don't remember him in them. Then came Hangover and well, ok, now he was more in the front of my brain and as much as I cracked up while watching it, I still can't say that he impressed me as an actor of any substance. Yeah, yeah, I know he reigned until just recently as People's Sexiest Man of the Year and I see him repeatedly on The Today Show ballyhooing his most recent flick, but why should he capture my interest?
Well, hear this... and for you fans of either, pay special attention. They are dynamite in this film. I heard he was reluctant to do it at all until DeNiro talked him into it. And I read that a number of actresses were considered for Lawrence's part. Well we have to thank the thespian gods that these two actors came aboard.
Do us all a favor and never refer to this film as a romantic comedy. It does not at all deserve that loathsome moniker, that death knell to movies and the stars that populate them. I said above that it is a comedy drama. The truth is it was a drama with some comedy. And yes there is some romance, but it is really much more about mental illness, which is rarely funny.
Cooper is Pat who lost his job, his money and his wife after exhibiting some aggressive behavior and as the story opens he is just getting out of a mental care facility to deal with his bipolar nature. He is perhaps getting out too soon. He seems to have restraining orders out against him all over town. He moves in with his parents. He has lost weight, is trying to do the right thing (and not always succeeding), is determined to get fit and to resume a relationship with his ex-wife, whom we come to learn doesn't share his zeal. He wants to see the silver linings in life.
His father (DeNiro) is uncertain about his son being on the mend and is chagrined that Pat won't spend any more time with him than he does. He particularly wants his son to do some armchair quarterbacking with him. The father is so wrapped up in the Philadelphia Eagles that his demonstrative ways got him permanently kicked out of the team's stadium. He also has quite the gambling addiction.
The mother (Weaver) stands by her son, her younger of two, but has a tough-love spirit. Pat responds to her no-nonsense mothering and she is determined that things will start to go right for him.
Into all this comes Tiffany (Lawrence). She's tough, too, and has her own issues to deal with. She is a recent widow and grieved by sleeping with everyone I worked with. She's now in recovery. There is a tentativeness on her part to get involved with Pat because she thinks he's a sandwich short of a smorgasbord and besides, he is pining for his ex-wife.
That's all you're getting. How it works out for them, whether it works out for them, I encourage you to see the film. If you don't go to many movies, go see this one. Everyone else is going to. And no one will be sorry. I rooted for these characters because I was made to care about them. They made me laugh and they got me teary-eyed. And along the way we get treated to some wonderful homespun affirmations.
Unless Julia Stiles did this film as a favor to Russell or someone, I am not clear on why she did it. She has just a couple of scenes (as Lawrence's sister) and neither her character nor the scenes are all that significant to the project at large. What's going on?
An aside on DeNiro. His performance in no way detracts from the film and he is, in fact, good. He's always good. But to me what he also always is is the same. The DeNiros, Hoffmans, Pacinos were great actors as young bucks. They are still good actors, but perhaps it's just a case that when actors get older, they revert to father or grandfather roles and there's not a lot one can do with those roles. The father of the hero ain't the hero. But my point is that I get bored with the sameness all the time. DeNiro rarely smiles and when he does, I expect to see his face go the way of the ice in the Arctic. He's always so disagreeable and a bit whiny.
Lest you think I am disagreeable and a bit whiny myself, I will dash off with these words: go see Silver Linings Playbook. It has sharp writing and two young actors doing their best work and the film will cast a spell on you. You can thank me later.
Coming in December