Movie Review – Silver Linings Playbook

My wife and I struggle to find movies to watch together.  We’re both overly sensitive to what we think the other might like to watch or not.  But we continue to struggle intermittently to find a happy medium between brain-gorging zombies and petticoats.  We opted for Silver Linings Playbook.

The acting in this film was very good.  Being old, this was my first exposure to Bradley Cooper, and he did a good job of channeling the intensity of a man trying very, very hard to retain a grip on reality.  We’d met Jennifer Lawrence already via the Hunger Games movies, and she demonstrated an equal intensity and vulnerability.  The supporting cast was impressive, if sometimes curiously out of place.  What was the point of Chris Tucker in this film?  Other than providing one of the film’s most memorable lines, I mean?

The movie revolves around two mentally unstable people and their interactions with one another.  The problem with having mental illness (whether clinically diagnosed as Cooper’s character is, or more implied as with Lawrence’s) is that mental illness is pretty serious stuff.  Yes, the people who suffer with it are sometimes very attractive and equally charming.  But the reality is that even when the Right One Comes Along, they don’t generally cure the mental illness.

Early on in the film both Cooper and Lawrence do an admirable job of portraying their respective struggles, their social maladjustment, their fear, their defensiveness, their unpredictability, their lack of ability and sometimes even willingness to control themselves and the problems that inevitably follow.  But by the middle of the film this begins to disappear.  Love is once again the great healer, smoothing over all the problems these two individuals deal with, without exacerbating each other’s or creating new ones between them.  The ending is ultimately hollow in an utterly predictable fashion.  This makes the movie emotionally satisfying, but only at the cost of integrity.

That being said, it was still enjoyable.  Requisite gratuitous nudity and profanity, so be forewarned.  The film is very funny as well – and rarely at the expense of the main characters.  Rather than making cheap jokes about their struggles, the movie does a great job of showing the ludicrousness that many normal or healthy people exhibit in their lives.  Is there anything more insane than a die-hard sports fanatic?  Probably not, and the film does a good job of capturing a bit of that particular phenomenon.  Family dynamics and quirks are also a source for laughs, as are friends.  The main characters are likable, even when their actions (past or present) are not.  You want them to succeed, to be happy.  And you’re glad that they are in a movie because then that hope can be fulfilled a whole lot easier and more quickly than it could be in real life.

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