Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Silver Linings Playbook is weirdly enjoyable despite its clear contrivances


So let's get the "negative energy" out right now: Silver Linings Playbook is a highly flawed film. It's filled with contrivances, it features plot points you can see from miles away, and the camera-work is at times distracting, as if David O. Russell wanted to add more energy to an already energetic film. David O. Russell is a very good filmmaker whose '90s output was fantastic and his last film, The Fighter, was a welcome comeback. Silver Linings Playbook felt like one of Russell's quirky earlier films but with Hollywood conventions.

Whether or not you like it really comes down to personal preferences. His first four films weren't for everyone but they had a distinct voice and he clearly showcased himself as an immense talent. It was weird seeing him trying to mix his quirkiness with some typical Hollywood rom-com conventions. So my personal preference? I like Russell's quirky style so ultimately, I liked Silver Linings Playbook, but in a weird, almost undefinable way... I'll explain as I go.

Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) has just been released from a psychiatric facility, having been unofficially diagnosed as being bipolar. Now he's staying with his parents (Jacki Weaver and Robert Deniro) while he tries to take the steps to get back with his wife. He had wound up in a mental hospital in the first place because he found his wife in the shower with another man and, in a rage, wound up beating the shit out of him.

Later on, he's introduced to a young woman with problems of her own, Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), whose husband had died recently and she wound up getting fired from her job for having sex with everyone in her office. She agrees to help him get in contact with his wife (who's filed a restraining order on him) if he agrees to help her with a "dance thing." Meanwhile his father laments the fact that they don't spend enough time watching Eagles games together.

Football plays a bigger role in the plot than I had anticipated. There's a lot of little elements like that, that felt weird to me but I found the movie to be charming enough to let it slide and to go along with it. It's definitely got strong typical Hollywood elements to it, but it's a well-made film and it's up to you if you wanna go along with it or not. 

Bradley Cooper does fine as the lead, Pat, but I can't help but think what Mark Wahlberg could've brought to the film when he was originally supposed to play the character. David O. Russell and Wahlberg seemed to have had some type of falling out, which is a shame because Russell always brought the best out of him. Cooper was fine, but Jennifer Lawrence overpowered him big time in their scenes together. I've seen a few negative reviews and criticisms point out Lawrence in particular; I happen to think she's wonderful in the film. Whether or not her performance is Oscar-caliber is irrelevant. She gave the film an extra dose of life, and honestly, most likely saved the film..

Because the writing can get rather shaky at times, and when it all comes down to an elaborate bet that involves a Cowboys-Eagles game and a dance competition, it could leave you scratching your head. Thanks to some solid performances and a number of funny scenes, the film never fails to be enjoyable. Nothing about the film feels particularly believable, except the results of Philadelphia Eagles's 2008 football schedule. Personally, it didn't bother me, but it sure did walk a fine line on some shaky ground. Also, I can't really comment too much on the mental illness aspect of the lead characters because it's not a subject I'm well-versed in, needless to say, don't expect the film to give an accurate account of what it's really like to be bipolar. 

This is a film that doesn't really take itself all too seriously, it moreso felt like a combination of family drama and romantic comedy and I think when it deals specifically with Pat, his family, and his relationship with Tiffany, that's when the film rises above itself. It felt as if because this came out in November and this has been touted as an awards favorite, that this film was gonna be a little more than what it is. Really, it's just an enjoyable feel-good Hollywood film with a quirky voice behind it. I've got no problems spending two hours with a film like that.

Grade: B

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