SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
The love thrown to Silver Linings Playbook is an absolute mystery to me. It is billed as a comedy, but what I found is that Silver Linings Playbook is from the "we're all screaming at each other at the same time so it must be funny" school of comedy. There were people who were laughing at some of the antics of our crazy people, but I was fighting to stay awake at a movie that thinks it's cute and whimsical and funny and clever when it is just annoying and smug.
Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) has been released from a mental hospital. In those past eight months he has been away, his wife Nikki has moved on and away, a logical thing to do since the reason Pat went to the funny farm in the first place was because he caught his wife in flagrante delicto with one of her co-workers and had almost beaten him to death. To add insult to injury, they were doing the nasty in the shower with 'their song', My Cherie Amour, playing for them. Now that he's out, he has to stay at his parents' home and respect a restraining order.
Restraining order be damned: Pat loves Nikki and knows she feels the same despite all evidence to the contrary. He now plans on winning Nikki back by doing those irrational things all mentally ill people do: read Nikki's syllabus to be able to read all the books she'll be teaching (here's a hint: Pat didn't like A Farewell to Arms, but more on that later) and try to get in touch with her.
As it so happens, there IS a way that presents itself. Mutual friends Ronnie (John Ortiz) and Veronica invite him to dinner, where they introduce him to Veronica's sister Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence, or as I dubbed her, J-Law). She is a widow who like Pat speaks her mind/is mentally unstable (apparently that's one and the same), and SHE can be the courier in Pat's scheme. Of course, there's a catch: he has to participate in a dance competition with him.
While there are suggestions that a romance could happen, both insist they don't know how to date, even after Tiffany talks about what a nympho she was after her husband's death.
Pat's mother Dolores (Jacki Weaver) and father Pat, Sr. (Robert DeNiro) aren't too thrilled over this relationship, especially Pat, Sr. He too has lost his job and is now a bookie, always putting money on his beloved Philadelphia Eagles. He has convinced himself that Pat, Jr. is some kind of talisman for our NFC East team and would rather Pat, Jr. go to the game or at least watch it than go dance with that cuckoo slut.
This do appear to be going well until Pat, Jr. and his brother Jake (Shea Whigham) go to an Eagles game (Pop can't go because he's been banned for life for too many fights). While defending a group of Indian-American Eagles' fans, a fight breaks out. Just by going to the game he screws with Tiffany, skipping an important rehearsal. Now Tiffany and Senior reach an agreement: IF the Eagles beat Dallas AND she and Pat, Jr. earn a score of minimum five, Senior will be able to win back the money he's lost to build his cheesesteak restaurant.
A cheesesteak restaurant in Philadelphia? Whatever are the odds?
And whatever are the odds of these two falling for each other and the bets being lost?
Rather, it is in the delivery that I found much to be annoyed.
Both Pat, Jr. and Tiffany, we are led to believe in writer/director David O. Russell's adaptation, are suppose to be these wonderful people because they have no censor. They speak their minds, are honest to a fault, and always call it as they see it. Well, I didn't think that. Instead, I found both of them irritating in how they are not oblivious to what they say (well, perhaps Pat, Jr. was) but in that they flat-out didn't care that what came out of their mouths was either inappropriate or insulting to others. This is especially true for Tiffany, who at dinner is brash and I'd say boorish with her sister and brother-in-law who are being as civil as possible with some woman constantly yelling and insulting them.
That is what I found most aggravating about SLP: that this film holds that the more people scream at each other, the more we're suppose to think it's hilarious. I have never gone for that style of 'comedy' (a prime example of how people just shouting all over the place and being hysterical is not funny is Freddy Got Fingered). There seemed to be scene after scene of people being hysterical, sometimes for no reason, in SLP. Moreover, one particularly frightening scene involved Pat, Jr.'s meltdown when he begins to frantically search for his wedding video.
Side note: wouldn't they have switched to DVD by now? Just a thought.
It is about 3 in the morning as he storms about the house, including his parent's bedroom. Nothing new here: he did the same early to tell them he thought A Farewell to Arms was terrible in its ending. When his parents object to being woken up so early for this oddball book report, Pat, Jr. tells them the one who should be apologizing to them is Ernest Hemingway. So does that make Pat, Jr. real crazy or just stupid? Yet I digress.
As he goes around looking for said videotape and becoming more frantic, you can imagine that he accidentally hits his mother. Then his father gets in on the act, and Jr. takes a few blows from Sr. who in turn gets some in return. The entire fracas (both Jr.'s shouting and the fighting) brings the police and wakes up the whole neighborhood. At his session with Dr. Cliff Patel (Anupam Kher) or with Tiffany (I don't remember) Junior rationalizes the whole thing, saying that if he really wanted to kill his dad he easily could have given he's younger and stronger.
Any rational group would have said that for his own safety, let alone for their own, Pat, Jr. should be returned to Baltimore (read, the hospital), but this is soon forgotten to get Pat and Tiffany to the big dance-off.
Somehow I find this irresponsible to treat mental illness, particularly one with a violent streak, as a source of comedy. I can't root for someone, especially one who not only is as prone to violence as Pat, Jr., but someone who mistakes insensitivity with honesty, one who confuses narcissism with sincerity. Not once did Pat, Jr. ever question whether NIKKI wanted to be with him. He figured that she did because he's Patrick Solitano, Jr. and obviously she was in love with him. His obsession with Nikki apparently bothered or concerned no one. Far from it: some people encouraged him in virtually stalking his estranged wife.
I have never been a Cooper-hater. I think he is someone who CAN act. However, I think that Cooper was trying too hard to affect some kind of working-class Italian-American Philly accent that came and went. That, coupled with his rapid-fire delivery of dialogue, didn't make him horrible but not overwhelming.
Same can be said for Lawrence, an actress whom I'm still fond of but beginning to question why. She was good as the widow who liked to screw around but I wish she hadn't been directed to do all that screaming. DeNiro didn't do badly and Weaver channelled Edith Bunker for her Dolores.
In short, I think they gave decent performances, but nothing extraordinary, certainly not to the level of acclaim they're getting.
What I would say about Silver Linings Playbook is that there is certainly a hope that people will think that because a lot of people talk fast and there is a lot of screaming we will have some semblance of screwball comedies. Again, I didn't find anything particularly awful about Silver Linings Playbook, but it wasn't something I went crazy for.