Silver Linings Playbook
Distributed By: The Weinstein Company
Reviewed by Mo Bear
Despite rave reviews from some of my own trusted movie-rating sources, I was not incredibly optimistic about the rom-com-of-the-moment. I’m not really a romantic-comedy kind of girl—I’m more of a comic book hero/explosive adventure/underdog sports triumph/smart thriller/visceral indie/non-romantic comedy kind of girl. But a thought kept nagging at me: how can a rom-com be an Awards-season contender? Has the bar really been set that low? Or is this movie really THAT good?
Though my expectations were not very high, I was intrigued by the prospect of a David O. Russell smart, indie-style rom-com—which is what my sources were promising, despite being a contradiction of terms. So one day in early January 2013, I played hookie from school/work for a few hours to treat myself to a matinee showing of Silver Linings Playbook, and what a treat it was!
What I expect from a rom-com is formulaic: quirky but lovable, happily-ever-after, super predictable, vomit-inducing crap. But this was supposed to be a “really good” rom-com, so I was expecting vapid, yet entertaining—in a mindlessly-stare-at-the-scenes-as-they-go-by sort of way. What I got was quality entertainment of a higher caliber: Smart. Really smart. Funny. Adventurous. Sweet. Kind. Compassionate to the human condition. And a little bit frisky. If this movie were single and human, I’d ask it out on a date!
The two main characters of this story [Pat played by Bradley Cooper and Tiffany played by Jennifer Lawrence] are both, simultaneously, the Beauty and the Beast, the Prince Charming and the Cinderella—they are each the savior and the saved; which I find as a welcome twist on the woman-needs-saving/man-saves-her formula. Inevitably this genre is laid on a foundation of flawed humans with lots of baggage—they are damaged goods, they are heartbroken, they have trust issues, and they need to be saved from themselves and their bad decisions. But the undercurrent as to what the real problems are and where the real damage is for these particular characters is acknowledged clinical depression (and other psych issues)—another twist in the formula; a subject barely and rarely touched by Hollywood. The genius of David O. Russell is that he showcases and highlights the reality of the effects of mental illness and having to live with it (both on the patients, as well as the people around them) without exploiting it, but instead he respects it and celebrates it. He makes it heartwarming and realistic without taking it too seriously; he makes it palatable and amusing without poking fun at it.
And the acting! Oh my GOSH! Brilliant! Just brilliant! There are reasons why this was the first film in decades to boast Oscar nominations in all 5 of the major categories (best film, best leading actor, best leading actress, best supporting actor, and best supporting actress)—and the main reason is this: BRILLIANCE! Brilliance in the interpersonal chemistry, the raw talent, and the portrayals. Not only of a family in crisis, but of a working-class Eagles-football-loving Philadelphia family in crisis trying so hard to glue back together all the broken pieces and hug it out even though the sharp edges hurt. Not only of a man and woman learning how to be friends with each other, but of a man and woman both struggling with managing mental illness and re-learning how to live in these new lives they are presented with after their own respective tragedies. And let me tell you this: Bradley Cooper, Jackie Weaver—they were robbed. Brilliance.
As an aside I also have to say, as a native, I was pleased with the spot-on representation of the culture and personality of my home-town Philadelphia. In my experience, most people who aren’t from the area think of Philadelphia as New York City’s mini-me. Which it is not. Philly has its own heartbeat. It’s undoubtedly a big city with all the shiny lights and urban squalor you could ask for, but it’s also got that friendly, cozy, small-town feel to it—a juxtaposition I challenge you to refute after spending a whole-hearted open-minded day of touring through the different districts, running from University City all the way to Olde City (and don’t forget to hit the Gayborhood for a few drinks on the way). We have highways, and we use them. But we much rather walk (or bike or catch a quick train ride) to meet a date or friends for a fun night out. It’s a city of neighborhoods and neighborliness, and I greatly enjoyed and appreciated the accurate portrayal.
So many of my friends who have seen this movie love it mostly because what they see is a reflection that is representative of their own dysfunctional, loveable families; they see themselves and/or their loved ones in Pat, in Tiffany, in Delores, in Ronny, in Pat Sr., in the annoying Dallas Cow
girlsboys fan friend-of-the-family, and it strikes a chord with them so deeply. Another aspect of this film that makes so many of us say “hey, that’s my family, too!” is the football—the most American of sports past-times. And as a die-hard bleeds-green born-and-raised-from-Philly Eagles fan, I can tell you—yes, we are that ridiculous and passionate. And yes, it makes and breaks a family. And yes, DeSean Jackson is the man.