Date Movie Talk: 'Silver Linings Playbook'
February 2nd, 2013 3:00pm EST
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” or “I
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.
In the end, “Silver Linings Playbook” is, well, hilarious, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting. Lets face it: we’re all crazy. We all have our idiosyncrasies, obsessions, skeletons in the closet, shameful memories, and regrettable choices. These issues can be paralyzing, preventing us from reaching out to make a connection with someone who may just be, if not the cure, the salve, for what ails you. It’s rare a movie tackles such serious subject matter without a smidge of heavy handedness, unintended camp, or actions that ring in-authentic to the characters in the film. You may not notice it at first, but “Silver Linings Playbook” is a great movie, regardless of the company you may or may not keep.
If you’re bringing a girl you’re fixing to romance to this movie - make sure she’s interested in *you*. There’s nothing worse than taking a girl to the kind of movie that makes your mind wander to the lost romances of your life, and finding out your date still isn’t quite over her breakup from Tommy who works at the Starbucks. Thankfully, if she digs you, there is a lot to be sappy over in this movie. On more than one occasion you’ll very likely hear sniffles and “awww”s from the audience during the movie’s tender moments, that are like music to the romantic’s ears. Take note of when your date makes these noises, and try to use them to your advantage for strategic hand-holding and arm-around-shouldering - certainly the key to any successful movie-date. Similarly, you’ll be able to gauge your potential mate’s penchant for intelligent movie-going by her engagement. While compelling, funny, human, and enthralling, “Silver Linings Playbook” isn’t very exciting. If you look over to find the harsh white glow of a cell-phone, you may want to bail out on any potential relationship.
“Silver Linings Playbook” is ultimately a great first date movie for a few reasons. It’s touching, romantic, celebrates love and family - and it’s sexy too. While certainly more than eye candy, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are incredibly attractive people, and certain scenes in the flick feature palpable romantic chemistry that may very well get your libedo beating faster than the drums in a White Stripes song.
While I’m not a doctor or even in a relationship, I worry if perhaps that if viewed in the wrong light, this movie could be potentially damaging for mid-to-long-term couples and married folks. Especially if there has ever been infidelity or a tendency for bursts of anger or violence on the part of either mate. “Silver Linings Playbook” hammers home the fact that we’re all crazy, and that love can and will conquer all, if not most. The problem is that while the movie is very natural and believable, watching it with someone who you know to be unfaithful could rend an incredibly painful experience for both parties.
Also, often times relationships that are emotionally abusive find themselves in a situation kind of similar to what “Silver Linings Playbook” presents toward the end of the film. Bradley Cooper’s Pat is violent, and crazy, and is ultimately saved, in a sense, by Jennifer Lawrence’s Tiffany. That whole “We’re both crazy, baby” kind of mentality is what allows an insecure gal to stay with her boyfriend through his semi-regular fits of anger that may very well land the family cat in the E.R. - and if taken in the wrong light could reinforce a person’s commitment to making a poisoned relationship work.
But, if you’re happy and married, or headed down that road, well, you can’t do much better than “Silver Linings” Playbook. While sexy, it’s not deliberately misogynistic, and there aren’t really any shots or sequences in the film that exist solely to show off the sexy bods of Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence - which some movies are wont to do, and there’s enough comedy, romance, humor, and sports talk to satisfy even the most cynical of men.
There’s a lot you can talk about coming out of “Silver Linings Playbook” the first topic which may very well be “That got nominated for a bunch of Oscars?”. It’s true, “Silver Lining’s Playbook” is up for 8 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. As mentioned above, the movie has a habit of making it look easy, to the point where you may not even realize how great the movie really is. Really very few films are capable of balancing the subject matter of obsession, mental illness, competitive dance, romance, family, and self-betterment in a way that doesn’t come off ham-handed or just simply awful. A single wrong turn would have derailed the entire shebang, and if you want an example, give “Friends With Benefits” a watch and watch the entire film come crashing to a screeching halt upon the introduction of a sub-plot involving Alzheimer's disease.
If you’re looking to impress your date with your knowledge of the cinema-scape, David O. Russell is probably one the best Directors to read up on - and talk about. He’s notoriously difficult to work with. You could mention how the guy got into a fist fight with George Clooney on the set of “Three Kings”, or about the viral video that features an tirade of epic proportions toward Lily Tomlin on the set of “I
Guys, also be prepared to talk about “Hunger Games”. Sorry fellas, there’s no way you’re getting out of it. If you haven’t seen it, “Hunger Games” is a movie about a bunch of teenagers who compete in a brutal fight to the death in order to win fabulous cash and prizes. It’s actually pretty awesome - though I think girls are in it for the empowerment, love triangle, and crazy futuristic fashion (Psh, wearing real burning flames after Labor Day? That’s so 2029). While the movie featuring Jennifer Lawrence was middling at best, there were highlights, and if you want to sound like a movie buff, talk about how great Stanley Tucci was in the flick and that you think Josh Hutcherson was an insufferable cad.
Girls, get ready to talk about “The Hangover” and get ready for drunken college stories from your date. Bradley Cooper made a name for himself in both “The Hangover” and “The Hangover Part II”, and while you completely forget it’s the same guy during the course of “SIlver Linings Playbook” inevitably some time after you leave the theater, your beau (or potential beau) will talk about how “Epic” those movies are and very likely relate them to some surely exaggerated debauchery from his own life. A key thing to look out for here is that you very much want to hear him say that the first one was better than the second - this is a universally accepted truth. If not, well, you may have yourself a man with bland tastes.
If you and your date thoroughly enjoyed “Silver Linings Playbook” and you’re looking for another movie to watch, but don’t feel like diving into David O. Russell’s back catalog, “Bridesmaids” pairs delightfully well with “Silver Linings Playbook”. Both films, while on appearing on the surface to be romantic comedies, are quite a bit deeper than you’d initially give them credit for. “Bridesmaids” trends closer to being a flat-out farcical comedy, but both films subtextually fixate on accountability and taking responsibility in their own slightly slanted ways. “Silver Linings Playbook” takes a messier approach; by the end no one is “cured”, and surely the ghosts of past transgressions will haunt the characters even after the happy ending. “Bridesmaids” seems to have a weird AA undercurrent going throughout the film, with Kristen Wiig’s character being a self-blaming not-quite-sad-sack throughout the film until she learns to respect herself and take responsibility for her life and actions - Salvation is only for those who help themselves, and such.
But the main reason for watching “Bridesmaids” after “Silver Linings Playbook” is that the one-two punch of Cooper and Lawrence’s chemistry and Kristen Wiig and Chris O’Dowd’s adorable courtship is simply too authentically romantic to resist. If you and your date make it all the way through both movies, and no-ones made a first move, either play two-person “Spin The Bottle” or call the whole thing off because the sparks simply aren’t there.
There's a lot to pull from "Silver Linings Playbook" and if you feel like talking about the movie and seeing where the conversation could take you, there's obviously quite a lot you can discuss, or expect to discuss as you can see above. But like good movies, good dates can sometimes wash over you, a cavalcade of sights and smells and sounds and moments that form together into a distinct mood, and leave an impression on your psyche that's everlasting. If that's the case, I hope I helped.
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Photo Credits: The Weinstein Company Inc.