Saturday, November 24, 2012

ABANDONED THEATER: Silver Linings Playbook

(Abandoned Theater is a segment usually written by TJ, but today Robby takes the reigns to give his thoughts on David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook, unfortunately without TJ's creative use of footnotes)

There hasn’t necessarily been a shortage of Hollywood depictions of mental illness, but as someone who understands it and has had it present at various points of my life, I’m always interested when I see a film about it and about the people mental illness affects. That and the fact that David O. Russell is the writer/director made me very interested in seeing Silver Linings Playbook.

Russell directed 2010’s The Fighter, and in Silver Linings Playbook he continues to show great care for his characters while also showing their unavoidable dark sides. Bradley Cooper plays Pat Solitano, a man with bipolar disorder whose temper can extinguished in half a second. Pat worked as a substitute teacher and experienced problems with his wife, but when he found her with another man, that’s when he really lost it; let’s just say the following events lead to Pat’s eight month stay in a mental health facility, and a restraining order from his wife. Nevertheless, when he gets released from the facility he is steadfastly loyal and confident to the plight of getting his wife back. But it seems life has other plans.

I can say that the performances from everyone throughout the picture are phenomenal. Seemingly everyone here is a loudmouth, but they each have their own inner darkness and self-destructive tendencies. Robert De Niro, who plays Pat’s obsessive compulsive father, and Jennifer Lawrence, a woman with a temper equal to Pat’s have already proven themselves to be powerful forces in dramatic acting, but Bradley Cooper is the most surprising one here, delivering a performance of a man with over the top antics, but deep, quiet sorrow. I hope he continues to show his complexity as an actor in future features. Oh, and let’s not forget that the most subdued performance comes from Chris Tucker, of all people.

I can say I was in love with this film for about 75% of its running time. I say that because the film takes a major turn in its third act that I think damages the film greatly. Not beyond repair, but sadly the film didn’t have the intention of repairing itself. Spoilers aside, it has to do with a bet the Robert De Niro character makes, and for the remainder of the film that bet is the sole focus. All of the characters’ other issues, be it mental, personal, whatever, are almost entirely disregarded; and what’s even worse is that from that point on the film feels content in conforming to an average Hollywood feel-goodery conclusion, and I felt the film deserved more than that. Before that point Silver Linings Playbook wasn’t an overly serious, or even a painfully realistic film, but there was a shred of darkness here, and almost a kind of unpredictability in the actions of the characters. When the film makes that change I mentioned, it just seems like all that difficulty just gets forgotten about.

So what to do? What to do with a film you loved most of the way through but just halts for the final act and never picks up again? Well I can’t discredit everything else I liked, because when this movie is in its “good” phase, it’s fantastic. With that final act put into play, the film goes from great, to good. It’s a solid film, unfortunately though, I feel it could’ve been so much more. You win some, you lose some.

Score: decent 7

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you, Robby. The end didn't ruin the film for me, but I get where you're coming from in terms of forgetting about the mental illness--especially Cooper's. The film makes an awkward shift towards focusing on Cooper's problems and then to Lawrence's and De Niro's problems.

    What I really liked about the movie, other than the fact that it is actually funny and has earnest heart about its characters that are well depicted by their actors, is its frenetic editing style. I feel as hyped up as Bradley Cooper's character as I watch it. The quick cuts and fast pace really put me on edge, and I like that.

    This movie is in my Top 10 right now, but I doubt it'll be there for much longer with some heavy-hitters coming out in December and November--Killing Them Softly, Zero Dark Thirty, The Hobbit, Django Unchained, and possible Les Miz.