Saturday, January 12, 2013

Review: Silver Linings Playbook


If this movie taught me anything, it’s that I don’t get football. At all. Not exceptionally relevant, just thought I’d say it.

Anyway. Silver Linings Playbook is a movie that I less wanted to see, and more a movie I felt I was obligated to see. It’s been nominated for all of the big awards (and more weirdly, editing) so I felt obligated to see it, just to figure out if it’s actually that good, or if there’s some PR bullshit going on behind the scenes (since it’s backed by Weinstein, it’s quite possible). And the verdict?

Well it’s not bad, by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s not great. Les Miserables and Lie of Pi are still the worst films nominated, but it’s not like it could drag itself onto my top 10. Still, it’s engaging, well acted and well written to a point, so there are certainly worse uses of your time.

Anyway. The plot is concerned with Pat, a bipolar man just getting out of a mental hospital after a felony assault. He returns home, determined to get his life on track and reunite with his wife. On the way he meets a woman who recently lost her husband, who is similarly…off, and they begin to bond, very strangely, over their mutual issues. And yeah, that’s going exactly where you think it is.

The acting is where the movie is getting most of it’s attention and most of it’s quality. Jennifer Lawrence’s character is a teetering pile of manic pixie dreamgirl clichés, but she manages to sell it almost entirely with her acting, and salvage the majority of the movie along with it. Bradley Cooper is well outside his usual comedy persona, but it works really well and he’s giving a lot of effort to make it work. De Niro is good, not his best but it’s nice to see him getting his career back on track (which I imagine is why he got his Oscar nomination). And while I don’t want to talk too much about the Oscar nominations, I find it weird that Jacki Weaver got nominated, as she’s barely in the damned thing.

The screenplay is solid enough I guess, nothing on some of the better scripts like The Master or Moonrise Kingdom but workable. It’s best off in the first half, when the script is focusing on the downside and darkness in MPDG persona, and even seems to be going somewhere pretty dark with it for a while. But the third act is a little more problematic, as it falls into a more typical romantic comedy plotline. It’s still well written and well acted, but it’s just a little too…typical for my taste. I dunno, I guess I’m still waiting for another movie to go the dark and/or ambiguous route, like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

The more baffling nomination is the director nomination. Yes, David O. Russel is a real talent, who has made good movies before (The Fighter, Three Kings, etc.) but I don’t know if he tried to tone it down too far or what, but he just did not bring his A Game to this one. Most of the direction is flat or overly on the nose (I would like to put a goddamn moratorium on using Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas in movies, for fuck’s sake people), and the attempts at the unique things tend to fall flat. And while I promised myself  I wasn’t gonna bitch about what didn’t get nominated, I find it really annoying that this got nominated for Best Editing, when better edited movies like Cloud Atlas, Moonrise Kingdom and even Cosmopolis got shut out. Seriously, Cloud Atlas had to cut between 6 different stories, in 6 different time periods, in 6 different genres, what did this have to do?

There are other good points (an amusing, but ultimately go-nowhere subplot about Pat not wanting to take medication) and negative ones (some occasionally poor music choices) but ultimately, this is an acting heavy movie that kinda blows it on the directing level. These are fairly common among Oscar-Bait movies, and Silver Linings Playbook isn’t any worse than most of them. So while I am convinced that the amount of love for this movie is pretty much just PR Bullshit, I guess I can recommend it. As I said at the beginning, you could do a lot worse.

Elessar is a 22 year old Alaskan born cinephile and there was a continuity error towards the end involving a necklace that really bugged him.

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