Sat 6 Apr 2013
I am trying to remember at least one character in Silver Linings Playbook who is not crazy in some way. You know, what we call a normal person, who is not or was not a patient in a mental institution, is not on psychotic medication, is not going to shrinks or a shrink himself, has no mania or obsession, does not live his or her life according to canned solutions prescribed by psychiatrists. Actually there may be one – Dolores, the mother of the deranged home where much of the action happens, splendidly acted by Jacki Weaver who also is hinted to be the deus-ex-machina of the sophisticated intrigue of rehabilitation of her son Pat (Bradley Cooper, much better than in any other film I saw him before) out of the mental institution where his stay seems to have been caused more by legal reasons than by health troubles. In the process of getting back his life, which includes for some reasons (never explained) getting back his cheating wife who was at the origin of all his troubles he will meet a new love (Jennifer Lawrence – great looks, average acting, but then she is really only 22). It’s just that the Pat’s system of reference (as the one of other characters in the film) is so much deformed by the stereotypes of therapy and legalism that seem to rule over the life of the heroes that only the rules of Hollywood good-feeling scripts succeed in bringing together the intrigue towards the end.
It is certainly my problem that I am not a big fan of suburbs drama or of romantic comedies. It is the problem of the film that it cannot offer credible solutions to the problems of the characters. If this was real life there would be no happy character in this film. They live in times of economic uncertainty, lose jobs or run in-secure businesses. Family lives are buried in boredom and mediocrity. They are stuck in unhappy marriages. They are on medication. Even their American football teams do not do too well, and sport events turn into violent incidents with ugly racist facets. The aspiration to a positive attitude seems to be imposed and artificial. It’s mean drama packed in the artificial wrapping of therapy and optimism, but the source of optimism is not clear. It sounds and looks superficial and artificial.
There are many details to like in Silver Linings Playbook. Dialogs are extremely well written and acting is so natural that you feel that you are present in the suburb home, and that the characters are folks like the ones you met yesterday. You even forget that Robert De Niro is the actor who played uncounted number of gangsters, his maniac focus is so well targeted here to the obsessions for football and betting. Director David O. Russell makes the best of the neurotic ambiance and temperament of his characters and eventually drives the viewers in caring about them. It was not a bad film, despite the amount of clichees that outnumber the moments of real emotion, but I left the screening with a feeling of dis-orientation – serious problems are dealt with the wrong approach. A little bit like the issues the characters in the film have to face and the way they try to solve them.