Tuesday, April 23, 2013

DVD of the Week: Silver Linings Playbook

On the occasions that Z and I get to the movies, we seem to have developed a tradition that whilst the trailers are on we wait until the end of the trailer then look at each and pull faces. Its sort of like "Rock-Paper-Scissors" based but with weird expressions, signifying how much we want to see the film we've just seen advertised. I distinctly remember seeing the trailer for Silver Linings Playbook last year, which made it look like a thin and vaguely generic RomCom, and the two of us exchanging expressions that can loosely be summed up as "oh dear god, not another one". And then the reviews got pretty nice about it, and then it was getting a load of awards attention, and we had to face the fact that perhaps - just perhaps - this was a case of shitty generic trailers, rather than a shitty generic film.

Its fair to say that Silver Linings Playbook isn't a generic RomCom. For a start, its not terribly Romantic, and secondly, I'm not sure it's terribly funny. That's not to say that I didn't laugh, not that there aren't funny sections in the film, but this is a bittersweet, and somewhat dark-hearted film about broken people trying to use other broken people to help pass for fixed. It feels like an attempt to make a light treatment of heavy subjects, and the fact its not a total trainwreck is a big point in its favour from the get-go.

So, Pat (Bradley Cooper) is just out a stint in the local hospital after assaulting his wife's lover and a diagnosis of bi-polar disorder. He's determined that he can win her back by proving hes become a better man, unwilling to accept what everyone else knows, that (unsurprisingly) she never wants to see him again. You'd think the Restraining Order was a hint. Now back living with his parents, he is introduced to Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), the recently widowed, and also deeply troubled, sister-in-law of his best friend. Its pretty clear that Pats friends and family are pointing him at the other "problem" they're aware of in the hope they'll keep each other entertained.

Its a great credit to both leads that their characters work. Lawrence has the showier, more blatantly brittle performance, like someone trying to keep a lid on screaming out, all the time, whilst Cooper is more subtle (I know, right?) with a role as someone who appears upbeat and bouncy most of the time with jagged, violent edges just under the waters. You're never asked to laugh at these characters, you're asked to feel for them. The film also takes the position that a lot of people struggle with what could be termed mental illness in other circumstances - supporting characters show signs of Depression and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder without ever explicitly making a point of it.

Some of the RomCom beats are definitely there in the plot, right down to a "running through the streets" denouement, but that familiarity helps give a interesting and challenging film a framework to hang onto. Its got a great script, cast and director, and I can't really think of anything bad to say about it. But at the same time I didn't love it, and I'm not sure why; something I can't out my finger on left me appreciating it more than enjoying it. But appreciate it I certainly did.