Silver Linings Playbook (great or grating?)

November 25, 2012 6 Comments

Rate the film:  4/10

Spoiler alert:  I think this film is  so GRATING that I nearly walked out of the theatre half way through.

So why make it a “must see” movie?  Many critics and audiences have raved about David O. Russell’s new film. It won the “People’s Choice Award” at the Toronto Film Festival.    It has been touted as an edgy, innovative “rom-com t with Oscar buzz for its two protagonists (Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence) and kudos for Robert De Niro.  The movie group I saw it with thought it was “one of the best movies of the year.”  I was a single voice of dismay–no, disgust, who tried very hard not to keep rolling my eyes.  I do respect their ideas about film.  We can’t both be right, or can we?

Russell’s film focuses on Pat (played by ” 2011 sexiest man alive” Bradley Cooper), who is discharged from a mental institution following a nine month stay for brutally attacking the man he finds is having an affair with his wife.  Apparently Pat is bipolar and had developed delusions about the episode.  He was also an underachiever(due to his illness?) who worked as a substitute teacher at the same school as his wife, where he is now banned by a restraining order.  Pat has not been taking his medications and he remains delusionally fixated on reunion with his wife.  He has been released to his parents (DeNiro and Jacki Weaver) and into their obsessive world of (?)  watching (and betting on) professional  football.

Fortunately, Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) another bipolar person who is depressed by the death of her husband.  The rom-com develops as the two display their distain each other. reminding us that they must be “meant for each other.”

Russell is known for his edgy dialogue and there are some decent verbal interactions here.  What seems missing for me, however, is any demonstration of understanding of real mental illness and its impact.   The characters’ (Cooper, Lawrence and DeNiro) psychopathology  only seems to rear its head when it moves the plot along.  Wouldn’t THAT be nice in the real world!

Okay, if you say “lighten up, it’s a comedy” I would challenge that the movie can’t have it both ways–don’t try to tug at my heartstrings and then say “just kidding”!

And I haven’t even mentioned the dance competition.

Or the cheesy ending.

If you want to see a truly quirky movie about a twisted football obsession  check out Vincent Gallo’s cult classic “Buffalo 66” (Ben Gazarro and Angelica Huston are truly incredible and much more credible).  If you want to watch how a story can unfold through ballroom dance, grab Baz Lurhman’s “Strictly Ballroom”.   Silver Lining Playbook borrows heavily from each and measures up to neither.

But what about all those rave reviews?  Perhaps I have just missed something essential.

So, please see the film (all three if you can) and decide for yourself.

Awesome or Awful?    Jolyn Wagner

The movie

Must See Movie of the Week
6 Comments to “Silver Linings Playbook (great or grating?)”
  1. Bruce Russell says:

    Though your description was detailed, I wasn’t quite sure what you thought of the film.

  2. Joyn says:

    Interesting comment: Even though I said that I nearly walked out of the film, thought it was “grating” and gave it a 4/10? I was worried that my disgust for the film would feel like a criticism of those who liked it, but I thought my critique was overwhelmingly negative. But, to be more direct: I really really disliked this film. I am surprised at all the positive buzz by folks who know and see alot of movies. I think the director must be getting a pass for some reason. My objective in writing it up as a ‘must see” was to encourage people of all persuasions to comment…

  3. Joyn says:

    oops..I just realized that you were being sarcastic…yikes….

  4. Bruce Russell says:

    Ah, yes! I was going to put a 🙂 after my comment but thought it would be too obvious. So you really, really disliked it? 🙂

  5. Brian Murphy says:

    I agree that BUFFALO 66 is a really distinctive and interesting movie. Less quirky, but really absorbing as a study of football-fan madness is Robert Siegel’s BIG FAN (2008). Less quirky, yes, but psychologically more persuasive and penetrating.

    And it’s clear that Jolyn sooo hated SILVER LIVING PLAYBOOK that she temporarily lost her sense of irony.

  6. Bruce Russell says:

    Here’s the last paragraph of Roger Ebert’s review of “Silver Lining Playbook.” He gave it 3.5 stars out of 4.

    One of the ingenious and sort of brave accomplishments of Russell’s screenplay (inspired by a novel by Matthew Quick) is the way it requires both father and son to face and deal with their mental problems and against all odds finds a way to do that through both an Eagles game and a dance contest. We’re fully aware of the plot conventions at work here, the wheels and gears churning within the machinery, but with these actors, this velocity and the oblique economy of the dialogue, we realize we don’t often see it done this well. “Silver Linings Playbook” is so good, it could almost be a terrific old classic.

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