The Silver Linings Playbook – David O. Russell gives us a rom-com for the severely depressed. (film Review)

I wasn’t’ sure if I would like The Silver Linings Playbook when I went in to see this film, and now that I am out I’m still not sure if I like it or not. There are some really great things about it:  A different take on the rom-com, Jennifer Lawrence, Jackie Weaver, Bradley Cooper saving himself from ‘him-bo’ and these fantastic shots of people watching from windows.  Then there are some terrible things about it: schmultzy up-beat ending, football, horribly predictable, and some weird little plot holes.

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Seen as a new style of rom-com its really great, sort of up there with Punch-drunk Love for quirk power. It does speak about mental illness in a very powerful way that is insightful and heartwarming without being over the top or pandering. And there is this wonderful running theme of shots Russell keeps giving us, as people behind their closed doors and windows will look “down” on those baring all in the middle of the street due to mental illness. I think this was my favorite aspect of the film. In fact a lot of the direction is really nice.  The scenes where the family squabble are very well done and the love each feels for the other pulses strong underneath the surface tension mental illness creates.

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Everyone is as good as you’ve heard. It’s no surprise to see a brilliant performance from Jennifer Lawrence (don’t we just love to love Jennifer Lawrence?  I know I do) Jackie Weaver and Robert ‘the hero’ as I and my brothers called him growing up. However, it’s a wonderful breath of fresh air to see Bradley Cooper as good as he is – and he really is good. David O Russell brings out these fantastic family tensions through his actors, who as I said above, never stop feeling the deep family love they have for each other, despite their often odd ways of showing it. In many ways this is an actors film, all the four leads have great roles and Russell is an excellent director of great actors, so this aspect of the film comes together very well.

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The pithy feel good ending is really odd. I did read that Silver Linings play book has something for the ladies (ballroom dancing) and something for the fellas (football) and from that perspective the film really works. However the football plot line felt odd to me, without spoiling the plot, and ended up being as ridiculous as the final scenes were predictable. I also can’t help the feeling that the film is a one of those darling academy films that deals with a fashionable topic.  One year it might be and ex Vietnam vet in a wheelchair, the next it might be a brilliant actor playing a mentally handicapped person, and the year after a man dying of AIDS.  Hollywood has the appalling habit of beatifying these issues, and surely Silver Linings playbook is one of these moments.

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I think my favorite thing in this film was the altered perspective on the rom-com. It’s a great genre, from When Harry met Sally through to Bridget Jones Diary and like all genres its had its fair share of dreadful films. This is not one of those, it’s a brilliant addition to a genre that deserves more respect.  I guess a this moment in time, what we don’t know is if it is going to scoop all the awards at the academy this year. I can’t see this beating Zero Dark thirty (that film is just so damned SERIOUS) and it absolutely should not beat Amour in any category they share. (But then, I don’t think anything should beat Amour). I can’t see Jackie Weaver beating Anne Hathaway (even if she should), I can’t see Bradley taking the gong over Hugh or Dan (even if Joaquin deserves it like almost no one ever has) and I can’t see Robert ‘the hero’ being acknowledged over Tom or Chris.  I CAN see Jennifer running away with her’s, even though   Emmanuelle Riva should get the award over everyone for everything.

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And that pretty much sums up the awards for me – Amour should win everything its in and I’m not interested in the categories where it’s not nominated.

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