Film Review: Silver Linings Playbook

Film Review: Silver Linings Playbook
by Kevin Sterne

Although at times it is heavy handed, and often teeters between charming and cheeky, clichés abound, there is something attractive about the way “The Silver Linings Playbook” tells its story. No, this is not the most ambitious movie of the year; it’s actually quite accessible even if you aren’t an anxious, depressed, OCD type with an attention deficit disorder. And if you are one with illegible RX’s wondering if they are even giving you the correct horse pills, this film probably strikes an emotional chord for its realistic portrayal of those with “issues,” a chord much louder and heavier than watching a few hostages escape from Iran. Argo, go screw yourself. The academy prescribes to Hollywood endings whether they are loosely based off semi-accurate historical events or not. If the latter, a book adaptation or sequel will usually suffice. But here in a little “indie” flick billed as a “love story,” we have all been surprised. And even though it does at times conform to the critically maligned tropes of today’s, let’s just say, inadequate cinematic standards–boy with problems falls for girl and thus doesn’t have anymore problems–it is a film that has taken, at the very least, a small step outside of the proverbial box of formulaic crap.

But let us hope for the sake of storytelling that the ability to be just a tad unconventional and slightly successful is not the formula for creating one of the best cinematic ventures of the year. Maybe it takes an actor to finally rise above awkward performances and forget, as we have painstakingly tried, just how bad “Limitless” and “The Hangover II” really were. Perhaps it was the fact that Mathew McConaughey look-a-like casting calls haven’t materialized, (though I hope after “Magic Mike” he will finally fade into oblivion), that forced Bradley Cooper to deliver a performance that exceeded expectations that had never even existed. Or maybe it was as simple as putting on a garbage bag and jogging around South Philly, it worked for Tony Danza after all, which drew us to a character unlike the archetypes we are so used to buying off the box office assembly line. There is a particular balance between being loved and loathed that Cooper’s character, Pat, exhibits; it is a fine tight rope act not far from reaching, but certainly still living in the shadow, of a Joaquin Phoenix or Daniel Day Lewis-esque performance.

Truth be told, good acting can only exist if great writing precedes it. Maybe the Golden Globes did get one thing right this year by nominating David O. Russell for his superb script. Don’t be fooled, these rich, big wig critics are definitely unconcerned with artistic quality so long as ego driven pocket crowding can still satisfy the billfold’s owner. Thus it is for us to decide. Can we not wind our way through the monotonous filth that pollutes our culture’s entertainment landscape and dive into something with a little substance? Silver Linings, at the heart, does just that while decorating itself with a cheap overdone message about the human condition and a painfully obvious plot twist that might not even fool M. Night Shyamalan. Beneath these cut-rate gimmicks, there is indeed a silver lining; we approach this film with expectations fit to the genre but come away mildly surprised.

Ultimately, this is a cinematic venture that initially slaps us in the face with its abrupt and, at times, frantic narration but later mellows out to a stereotypical love story. Rather than leaving the theater saying, “What the hell did I just watch?” we have long forgotten the maddening sequences concerning an obsessively compulsive, almost pathetic SOB who hits his mother and is all too often prone to exploding like a bottle rocket in a very real fit of rage. We have forgotten the jarring camera angles and blaring music that mirrors the utter chaos Pat frequents every minute. We have forgotten what makes this movie so good. But alas, followers of the mainstream herd are not ready for great art; see Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master.” No, instead we are glad to only remember that Bradley Cooper and that girl from “The Hunger Games” eventually worked it all out. This is all we really wanted wasn’t it? At the very least, this is what Hollywood wants us to crave. “The Silver Linings Playbook” seems to happily conform while still craftily hiding its brilliance for those smart enough to recognize.

About the Writer:
My name is Kevin Sterne, and I am a Creative Writing major with a minor in Screenwriting. I enjoy movies, music, and anything outdoors. Writing has always been my passion and I’m forever grateful for the opportunities I have been given that allow me share my work with others.

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