Tuesday, January 8, 2013
At the Movies: Silver Linings Playbook
Football and ballroom dancing, strung together by the threads of grief and mental illness, shouldn't have made for a cohesive story, much less a moving one. Also, I've never really liked Bradley Cooper on account that I think he's cocky. Yet despite all of this, I was hooked.
We meet Pat Solitano (Cooper) as he is being sprung from a Baltimore mental institution by his mother. Although the courts have discouraged the release of the bipolar Pat, who nearly beat his wife's lover to a pulp, they have allowed him to re-enter the world on the condition that he lives with his parents, namely said concerned mother and a just-laid-off Eagles fan fanatic of a father (Robert De Niro) who has plenty of problems of his own.
Still obsessed with his high school English teacher wife, Pat insists that his mother stop at the library on their way home (Philly, haven of hardasses and Eagles enthusiasts) so he can check out all the books on her syllabus. Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms tops the list, and Pat devours it only to hurl it out the (closed) window in the middle of the night and storm into his parents' bedroom to rant about the sad ending and the unfairness of life and the refusal of Hemingway and all his ilk to give an already-suffering world just one measly silver lining. It's an impassioned and funny scene (and one I appreciated, having never been a Hemingway fan) that shows just how much Pat is hurting. It is this vulnerability, despite his violence, that makes him so sympathetic.
No second chance saga is complete without a love interest, and Pat finds his in Tiffany, a new widow and recovering nymphomaniac. Not that he readily admits his attraction. Tiffany gives him a run for his money in the hard words department, and he initially resists her friendship on the grounds that he wants to reconcile with his wife. But Tiffany ambushes him one time too many on one of his trash-bag-clad (all the better to sweat in) runs, and after several unfiltered, in-your-face exchanges, he finds himself agreeing to be her partner in - of all things - a ballroom dancing competition.
Character-driven and introspective, Silver Linings is about two damaged people trying to make a go of it in this crazy, mixed-up world. It's honest and unvarnished and makes sense of the idea that we're all just a little bit crazy. Believe it or not, I left the theater in a much better frame of mind than when the credits rolled for This is 40. Uplifting, indeed.