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Silver Linings Playbook

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