Silver Linings Playbook (2012) David O. Russell
I’m still working out how I feel about this film, but the things I like are overshadowing any misgivings I have, leading me to say - I think I really liked it. It handles mental illness and unlikable behaviors in a refreshing way (I don’t know how accurately it depicts bipolarity, but it didn’t seem false), addresses stigmas, and mostly challenges them.
First, the negatives. Mostly, all throughout I kept thinking, “this is a first-time screenwriter, right?” It’s a bit overwritten and the dialogue is a bit much at times, so I was surprised to see that David O. Russell wrote the screenplay in addition to having directed the film. Obviously I don’t know a whole lot about David O. Russell, who I have since found has written most of his projects, except for The Fighter. I also didn’t like the cinematographer, who was DP on Warrior, another film where the cinematography annoyed me. Something about Jennifer Lawrence rubs me the wrong way, but whether it’s her or the character, I’m not sure. The character is certainly interesting and strong, but I think I would have to go for a second viewing to really solidify my thoughts.
Anyway. I’ve made my thoughts on romance movies clear, I don’t tend to like them. But somehow, this one I liked. It teeters on the edge, coming dangerously close to toppling over into cloying and annoying. And yes, there’s the ending, but by then it had won me over, and I’m as susceptible to that stuff as anyone. (And if you think that’s a spoiler, for an American rom-com, go fuck yourself.) But there are parts that are genuinely funny, and there are parts that ring true, and there’s enough darkness to cut it all, and that was enough for me.
The real key here is the details, mostly Pennsylvania and the supporting characters. The film takes place in Philly, and the rabidity of Eagles fandom is a big plot point. Having lived in Pittsburgh for almost ten years, of course I got converted into a Steelers fan, so I can relate to that. My sister-in-law still holds a grudge against the person who moved the position of her Terrible Towel during the playoffs one year, causing the Steelers to lose. etc. etc. But moreso, the film really captures the essence of Pennsylvania suburbs, in a way that I hadn’t seen before - it was comfortable and familiar, rich with detail, but not depressing. I absolutely loved that aspect of the film.
Real care was taken in creating excellent supporting characters, and the actors really embody them. Robert DeNiro in particular, has not been this good in…I don’t know how long? But even the rest of the minor supporting characters are real and interesting and add to the story. I especially loved the psychiatrist, Chris Tucker’s character, and the main character’s friend Ronnie.
Silver Linings Playbook portrays flawed, but ultimately human characters, who are no less human because of their mental shit. They can make mistakes and do unlikable things without being unlikable themselves. The film does not punish them for these things, and instead asks us to accept and love them for it. Ultimately a feel-good film, but one that made me genuinely feel good.
#226 - 12/4/2012