Silver Linings Playbook
Written & Directed by David O. Russell
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.
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.
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..."
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.