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Silver Linings Playbook Review

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Gangster Rap is Shakespeare for the Future
Expectations of films greatly affect how we experience them. When I went into Lost in Translation expecting another bland romantic comedy adding the twist of an age difference and came out with a wonderful and gently told story of loneliness, it was one of my favorite movie watching experiences. What I got out of David O. Russellís Silver Linings Playbook was essentially the experience I expected going into the former film.

Russellís film starts out okay. Maybe trying a little too hard gathering sympathy for Bradley Cooperís Patrick, but overall, the beginning provides a nice little compelling tale of man with an undiagnosed bipolar disorder. Heís just been released from the mental hospital after being sent there for nearly beating his wifeís lover to death. This beginning portion doesn't romanticize the illness, and there's a great dynamic between his friend from the hospital (Chris Tucker, who's later devolved for the purpose of teaching Patrick how to dance "like a black man"). Patrick spent the entire time in the hospital training and getting skinny for his wife (gone but not yet divorced). Cooper gives a good performance here, with one flaw. I noticed how much I was getting annoyed with his always optimistic attitude to the point of campiness. The reason it got to this was that it always seemed sort of artificial, well, because Cooper knows heís being overly optimistic, it shows through the cracks, but doesnít break his solid performance.

Jennifer Lawrence is not as strong (playing Tiffany, names are important) as Cooper in this, though itís not entirely her fault. The film begins to degenerate the second she appears onscreen. Russell gives them a socially disabled meet cute, involving a POV shot of Patrick looking at her boobs, twice. Tiffany is a (former) slut whose husband died. These are the couples two main conversational points. Is Russell using their mental disabilities to get at the truths of life and relationships, allowing them to speak bluntly. Canít that be done without offense, like with a couple-not couple switching in and out of their roles in Abbas Kiarostamiís Certified Copy, or just a long standing married coupleís disintegrating marriage in Ingmar Bergmanís Scenes from a Marriage? Well, I mean, come on, you canít compare Russellís film with a great like Bergman or Kiarostami. Oh, but Russell is the only one with an Oscar best director or screenplay nomination isnít he? Sorry, just wanted to insert the irrelevance of the Oscars a little.

Showing a reverse shot as synecdoche for the filmsís direction.
This becomes the major offense of Russellís film that annoyed throughout. Using mental illness to try to get at deeper meaning, and mainly, the exploitation of it, to try to make it cute. Two people freely expressing their immature thoughts isnít sad or romantic, itís just immature, at least the way this film depicts it.
Also an offense, for me at least, was how incredibly cliche the film became. In the opening half hour it had potential, but degenerated into a by the numbers romantic comedy. Not the least of the annoyances being one of those scenes where a guy talks about a girl in a really sweet and unexpected way, only to be revealed later in the scene that the girl was there the whole time. The filmís finale even includes a kiss with 360 degree camera spin, how innovative!

Not to mention some other subplots like Patrickís fatherís character development from an unsuccessful football gambler, to successful football gambler. This subplot could be seen as his development to move towards respecting his son, but that depends on perspective. If weíre in the fatherís perspective, than he has changed, because he believes his son caused the Eaglesí victory, but weíre shown through various POV shots that weíre clearly seeing this through Patrickís eyes. Silver Linings Playbook is a film at war with itself. It seems unsure if it should be a serious film about the mentally ill, or a by the numbers romantic comedy. Wouldnít this multiple personalities work in a film about a man with bipolar disorder. Yes, it would, if it seemed the slightest bit intentional. I mentioned Lost in Translation earlier, which has apparently started a soon to be cliche, as Patrick whispers into his wifeís ear silently to us. I hope this doesnít ruin a great moment in cinema.

Rating: 2.5/5

It wasn't as good as Lost in Translation, but it wasn't that bad either. 7.5 from me with a potential for a tad higher upon further reviewings. And it's more fun to watch than Lincoln was.

Then again, I thought Descendants was better than The Artist and was saw what happened then, too.

Gangster Rap is Shakespeare for the Future
It wasn't as good as Lost in Translation, but it wasn't that bad either. 7.5 from me with a potential for a tad higher upon further reviewings. And it's more fun to watch than Lincoln was.

Then again, I thought Descendants was better than The Artist and was saw what happened then, too.
It may have even worse for me because of the potential it had at the beginning.

Also, while The Artist was some of the best entertainment last year and I thoroughly enjoyed it while watching, it was rather shallow (A silent film tribute with a Singing in the Rain-like story), and other directors (Guy Maddin in particular) do a better job of bringing silent film styles up to date. I'd put them both on the same plane, but I don't think either was the best 2011 had to offer.

28 days...6 hours...42 minutes...12 seconds
Solid direction.

Good acting, with Lawrence as the stand out.

Funny, dark, and interesting....

but the movie as a whole feels a little bit better than "good". Nothing amazing and don't get all the love.
"A laugh can be a very powerful thing. Why, sometimes in life, it's the only weapon we have."

Suspect's Reviews

Gangster Rap is Shakespeare for the Future
Meant to expand this earlier:

The reference to Lost in Translation in the beginning came easily because of that film's final scene being reused in this movie. Let's start with the original film. After their time together in Tokyo, Bob catches a hold of Charlotte, whispers something inaudible to the audience into her ear, hugs her, and leaves. He presumably goes back to America, Charlotte has to remain for a few days before her husband's business there will be over. Regardless of what does or does not happen, that is the end, the film has finished what it has to say to you.

In Silver Linings Playbook, Patrick whispers into his long awaited wife's ear, again inaudibly, and then leaves the ballroom that hosted the previous scene's dance. In this version, Patrick then goes to confront goth dream girl Tiffany and confess his love to her, resulting in that 360 degree camera spin I mentioned above, and then a short montage of the film's ending with everyone happy watching the Eagle's game.

Now, what's the purpose of each? Well, Lost in Translation leaves the relationship between Bob and Charlotte completely subjective. There is a somewhat father-daughter correspondence between them (He teaches her his old man wisdom), but also moments of intimacy, such as Bob tenderly stroking Charlotte's foot as they lay half asleep watching none other than the famous fountain love scene from Fellini's La Dolce Vita. The whisper that caps this film serves to further several interpretations of the film. Is he confessing, apologizing, consoling, or just saying goodbye? It makes perfect sense in nearly any view of the film.

Now, in Silver Linings Playbook, what could Patrick be doing? Is he confessing, apologizing, consoling, or just saying goodbye? We know through the next scene (or series of scenes, I forget the direction) that we can eliminate one of those. Russell says it's a goodbye, but who cares about the director's opinion matter once it's up on the screen? Well, with a scene like this, it matters a great deal. It gives us insight about what the purpose of the scene may be. Why make a goodbye silent? Is it in homage to the former film, just a more poetic way of doing it, or lazy writing (sorry, too cynical)? Well, place it in the context of the following scene/series of scenes. Up until that point, rom-com conventions and experience aside, we hadn't seen much of a real romantic expression from Patrick towards Tiffany, and we already know Patrick has been doing all of this for his wife. So what then does the silent whisper do? The only thing I can see is the enhancement of the building drama over the sitcom-like will they/won't they tension brewing in the last hour. It serves as a simple misdirect to try to make you think that you had it all wrong (hmm, kinda like the majority of The Usual Suspects, another film that annoys me).

Being not only a destruction of, and complete misuse thematically of a great scene, this also exemplifies one of the main problems with contemporary American cinema. Everything needs to be as neat and tidy as possible. Tie all of the strings together tight enough so that the film experience ends with the appearance of the first name in the credits. The problem with this is, how do you make any kind of thought provoking cinema while tying everything together. Hollywood has a simple solution to this.

Well, if we can't make it that easy, how about making it black and white? That's the Hollywood motto. Look at recent "open-ended" films Inception and Life of Pi. In the former, we're left with two possible options, dream or no dream. Now, this isn't even as separated as that. Strictly sticking to the film's logic, it would have to be a dream, meaning the only way that this would be contestable is if there was a rule break, which, granted, the film does allow (uses of Mol, and the illogical "you can make any weapon you want," so everyone ends up with small to medium sized handheld firearms). So in this film, the open-ended nature relies only on your distrust of the filmmaker.

In Life of Pi, very late in the game, we're asked to choose between two different versions of Pi's story. This one is a little more open-ended for a while, allowing us to choose between two plausible stories, though one is more fantastical, it's still possibly real. The problem in this one comes when the film essentially tells you which one you should believe. Oops, no more ambiguity.

Trouble with films as neat packages is everywhere today. It was a complaint of mine about Django Unchained, for a director who usually handles himself well, he sure seemed to be trying really hard to tie all of the strings. Look at all of this year's Oscar nominees for best picture, how many of them seem like they're not packages with bows on top? I'd argue that just Amour is open-ended, and it's not American, hmm (Also note, how many of them seem to be very specifically American tales, the correct answer is 7, egotistical much?). Even films like The Descendants which is specifically about unresolved feelings feels incredibly neat at the end. WE NEED MORE JAPANESE FORM IN OUR AMERICAN MOVIES!