Silver Lyings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook
Written & Directed by David O. Russell

At the heart of Silver Linings Playbook there is a central conceit which is a lie.  It's a film, which like so many other romantic comedies (loosely defined) is predicated on the premise that, when we're at our lowest, most desperate and broken circumstances, someone will come along who just "gets" us, accepts us, sees us for what we can be, and totally wants to get it on although we've done nothing endearing.

This is Hollywood bullshit.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm willing to accept all kinds of Hollywood fantasy and to extend my disbelief to some pretty remarkable extents, but this conceit isn't just fantasy; it's a damned dirty lie.  It just doesn't happen.  When we're at our lowest, most desperate and broken circumstances, people cannot wait to get the hell away from us.  Yes, I speak from experience.  I used to believe in this premise, and I can tell you; they don't come.  The only one who can accept us at our worst and life us out of it is ourselves, and if we can't do it ourselves, then we will never crawl our way out of it.

Of course Silver Linings Playbook is FAR from the only offender on this count, but it's because of all that it does so well, and how deeply seductive that lie is framed in the person of Jennifer Lawrence, that I found it so stinging in this presentation.  It wasn't until after the movie ended that I found myself dallying in daydreams of emotional rescue and a smokin' hot ass, and finally thought, "hey, wait a minute..."

The reason the lie works so well is the earnestness with which it is told.  The texture and vulnerability with which Pat (Bradley Cooper), his family and friends are painted gives them an authenticity -- if not in terms of the real world, then at least within the context of their world.  Bradley Cooper, as a former teacher just getting out of the mental hospital is electric, at least for the first ten to fifteen minutes.  I had to make a conscious choice to come into this film with an open mind about him, because I've had a hard time shaking the impression that he's got to be a royal douche in real life, based largely on some of his earlier roles.  He managed to cure me of that preconception, and then completely forget about him once Jennifer Lawrence walked into the frame.  So seldom has the phrase "You can't take your eyes off of her" been so true.  Even when Cooper is in full manic meltdown, bouncing around the screen, Lawrence is the gravity at the center of the solar system.

Just in case starting thing out with a complaint confused you, let me be clear, I really liked this movie.  The characters are interesting and defined beyond their service to the story.  The performances of said characters are delivered with color and affection by skilled professionals drawing from deep wells of talent.  The "sports victory" conclusion, while an obvious and over-used trope in its own right, downplays most of the obvious beats and finds its weight in personal victory rather than aggrandized significance.  And the romance, while somewhat (and appropriately) baffling, triggers such an empathetic sense of yearning that it's hard not to be seduce by it.

...and that's a lie.  A dirty, beautiful lie.