Date Movie Talk: 'Silver Linings Playbook'
The date movie. We’ve all been here. Be it a night out with your wife or hubby, a first date with someone you met online, or simply something you enjoy doing with your boyfriend or girlfriend, oftentimes seeing the right kind of movie can enhance your romantic endeavors for the evening, and seeing the wrong kind of movie can damn them completely. Some movies are romance neutral. I don’t think anyone seeing “Parker” is going to come out of that movie questioning the very fabric of their lives, for example. But, some are profound. In a series of articles highlighting the good date movies, the bad date movies, and the kind of date movies you should really only watch after a couple of tequila shots, I intend to provide you with a primer. These will be broken down into three categories:
The Flick: The movie, is it good, what makes it good
The Chick: Who is this movie right for? Couples? First Dates? What does it mean if your date doesn't like the movie?
The Stichk: What are some pull-aways from the movie. Conversation topics, recomendations for other movies you may enjoy as a couple if you enjoyed this one, and so on.
So, here goes!
Typically, David O. Russell has been romance neutral. While a phenomenally talented (and infamously hot-headed) director, there’s really nothing in “Three Kings” or “The Fighter.”
Silver Linings Playbook
Director: David O. Russell
Runtime: 122 minutes
After being admitted for violently beating a man he caught in the shower with his wife, the high-strung Pat (Bradley Cooper) is discharged from a mental hospital after his parents agree to take him in and keep an eye on him. Following his incarceration, Pat appears to be a changed man - he’s working out religiously, and reading classic novels regularly, too - the problem being that all this positive energy comes from the misguided notion that he could win his wife back if he was just a little stronger, and it turns out all those books he’s been reading are ones that appear on the syllabus his wife made for the English class she teaches. It turns out Pat is fairly obsessed with his wife, and despite a restraining order, is intent on seeing her again. Pat brings her up consistently throughout the course of the movie’s first two acts, delusionally believing that if he could *just* talk to her, he’d be able to explain everything.
The fact is Pat is mentally ill, and refuses any sort of medication - leading to a variety of incidents with his family, psychiatrist, and former co-workers. On top of this, Pat is somewhat of a pariah in his own town, as the community is very well aware of his horrifically violent outburst and trip to the loony bin. Following a dramatic outburst over the inability to find his wedding video, he’s forced to start taking his medication. But crazy doesn’t stop with Pat and Tiffany. Pat’s Dad (Robert DeNiro) is his own kind of high strung and obsessive, particularly about the Philadelphia Eagles (and betting on them), going as far as to arrange the remotes a certain way on the table, and consistently clutch what appears to be a decades old Eagles hanky.
Eventually Pat runs into widower Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), and they inadvertently bond over all the various medications they’d been put on (and hated) throughout the years. Lawrence and Cooper have great chemistry, and you root for them right off the bat. Lawrence is a real gem, playing Tiffany as a disaffected, sexy, totally-lacking-in-social-filter, but still very obviously damaged kind of gal - the sort of woman an Everclear song would pine over. Cooper’s Pat is unsettlingly high-strung, and despite the strong bravado, has a very dangerous self-hate bubbling under the surface about the very horrible things that happened to him, and what they caused him to do. These characters click like lego bricks. Pat, deliberately chaste and obsessed with his wife, initially looks at Tiffany like the dorky girl down the block - annoying, nagging, and bothersome, whereas Tiffany, a sex-addict, finds herself intrigued by the only straight man on the planet that doesn’t want to sleep with her. Which is partially true. A particularly pivotal scene in a diner during a not-quite-date between the two eventually degrades into Pat living vicariously through Tiffany’s sexual exploits, then feeling immensely guilty after realizing he’s allowed himself such lustful thoughts about a woman that’s not his wife.
Director David O. Russell has a knack for demanding perfection from his performers, and it may actually be working against him because it almost seems *too* easy. Despite the big names in the movie, you ultimately forget that Bradley Cooper is Pat and Jennifer Lawrence is Tiffany. For the time they’re on screen, they become real people, with real problems, and real depth. They turn performances that are instantly immersive and captivating, but not showy, and as a result you may not notice how triumphant they really are. Part of the joy of “Silver Linings Playbook” is how both Lawrence and Cooper work very hard to slowly let their character’s guard down, as they come to trust each other and just possibly learn to function as relatively normal human beings again. To be fair, DeNiro is always DeNiro, but that’s more the fault of his incredible legacy than anything else.
Thanks in part to the performances and a stellar script, “Silver Linings Playbook” is incredibly funny in a natural way. A lot of uncomfortable humor is extracted from the obsession Pat has with his estranged wife, and with the initial antagonistic relationship with Tiffany. There’s a sequence toward the end of the film at a Philadelphia Eagles tailgate that is simultaneously hilarious - and heartbreaking.