Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Silver Linings Playbook

2012 122 min. R - Language, brief nudity - not Jennifer Lawrence, endless vapidity.
IMDB says... After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own.

The 73rd Virgin says... I thought I should review a rom-com for Valentines Day. I’m drinking coffee at 1:45 a.m. trying to finish Silver Linings Playbook which is running 92% positive on Rotten Tomatoes. The only good thing is the acting. The script is just awful.

It is said that none of us ever really leave high school. Now I have proof, in that this big steaming turd was nominated for Best Picture. And Best Script Adaptation.

Screenwriter-director David O. Russell is supposed to be a genius, or something. I liked Three Kings and The Fighter well enough, and my friends all tell me that American Hustle is good.

But THIS is pure critic-bait wankery. A self-branded romantic comedy that displays the elevated taste of very little comedy and limited romance. And long scenes where family members stand in a room and chew on each other with recrimination like a Bergman film – absent any of his insight - not to mention style.

Pat Solitano has been in an institution for 8 months for assaulting the “tenured” history teacher who has been schtupping his wife. Do east coast high schools have tenured history teachers? Who knew?

Anyway, Pat is being released into his parents’ custody and refusing to take his meds, until he does and then gets magically a lot better without any of the side effects that he’s been complaining about. I don’t claim to know the ins and outs of bi-polar disorder, but Bradley Cooper as the afflicted Pat is the only convincing character in the movie. Until he’s not.

Here’s the large print script’s way of showing you that he’s not as valued as his older brother.

And I didn’t believe a word of the dialogue. Nor did I believe that a psychiatrist, who knows Pat has a history of violence when he hears the song, "My Cherie Amour", decides to magically make it play the minute Pat signs in for his appointment, even though there’s a waiting room full of innocent bystanders.

Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany is fine but her motivations are incomprehensible. She likes the dirty, slutty side of herself so much that she will fall for the first person who does her a single favor, and then set up in a monogamous relationship with him. So help me understand what her motivations are again? Sure, if you get involved with an unstable widow who looks like Jennifer Lawrence, you’re going to forgive a lot for the pleasure of her company, but what is her reason for tolerating him?

And so many plot conveniences and contrivances.

Early on, we meet the local beat cop who tells us we will be seeing a lot of him.

No shit. Hold that thought.

When the Solitanos have a 3 a.m. fight, all the lights in the neighborhood come on and, lo and behold, Officer Keogh is there IN SECONDS, in uniform and clean-shaven. No partner. Best Script Nominee.

Then when Tiffany and Pat have a tiff outside of a theater, (and Pat’s trigger song is magically playing again – how cute!) look who shows up again IN SECONDS. No partner. Best Script Nominee.

And then when Pat’s asylum buddy (Chris Tucker) escapes and is found watching football at Pat’s house, who does the State of Maryland send to a house in Philadelphia (PA) to pick up a convicted felon? Why, it’s Officer Keogh again. No partner. Best Script Nominee. Oh, and great acting there, Bob (also nominated). I feel your pain.

And the Philadelphia, (PA) cop is going to drive the inmate back to the Baltimore, (MD) asylum. For God’s sake. Best Script Nominee.

Chris Tucker will mystifyingly show up later – maybe after his third escape from the asylum - as the shortest short-hand script device ever devised: the soul brother who teaches the white kids how to dance. At least he’s funny enough to teach them poorly. Is Russell clever enough to have inserted parody here? I don’t think so.

And then there is the silliest and sorriest contrived conflict I’ve seen in a while. Pat can’t practice for the big dance competition with Tiffany because he promised his dad he would go to a Philadelphia Eagles game. Why? Because he’s good luck for the Eagles, and Dad is the first bookie in history to bet only on his home team. I’ve never met a bookie like that. Best Script Nominee.

All this followed by an absolutely interminable living room scene, with about 15 characters shouting at each other, in which we will eventually learn that Dad’s financing for his new restaurant will be won or lost on a bet regarding the Eagles vs someone, AND, whether or not Pat and Tiffany can score high enough at the big dance-off. Two side characters are inserted into the scene for no other reason than to carefully explain to the audience the inexplicable. Best Script Nominee.

If it occurred to you to wonder how Tiffany kept magically ambushing Pat while he’s running early in the movie, well, it occurred to Russell to wonder the same thing, so near the end he tells us that Pat’s mother has been calling Tiffany to let her know when Pat will be running by. So the mother of a bi-polaroid with a history of violent jealousy is calling the unstable sex addict widow in hopes that they will hit it off. Zany rom-com. Best Script Nominee.

Finally, they have the big dance-off (Pat’s psychiatrist violates professional ethics by showing up). And Officer Keogh is there too. I give up. Cheap, cheap, cheap.

It has one funny scene – thanks to Lawrence. Spoiler alert.

Oh, and did I mention it’s Christmas and Pat will run through the street to finally catch his true love? Just like Bridget Jones’s Diary. There. Now it’s a romantic comedy Best Picture Nominee.

America, we should not go around confusing insultingly contrived drama, with lots of f-bombs, with romantic comedy. It makes the rest of the world think we’re stupid.

I think I’ll go watch Real Housewives so I can remember what a good script sounds like.


  1. Bravo. David O. Russell is a sloppy, sloppy filmmaker. His recent movies have the depth of a sheet of paper. American Hustle is even worse.

    1. I read your review. That makes me sad. It was the one movie this winter I was kinda looking forward to, being old enough to remember Abscam, sort of.