Silver Linings Playbook

JENNIFER LAWRENCE and BRADLEY COOPER star in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

While I enjoyed Silver Lining Playbook, the story of Pat, a bipolar man released from a mental institution, who’s intensely committed to getting his wife back. I wouldn’t watch it twice. It’s good, but not that good.

Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and the rest of the cast all turn in fine performances and the story pulls one along. I was just too aware of the plot points and screenwriting conventions to be blown away. I found the energy between characters, particularly Pat’s father (De Niro), Pat (Cooper) and Tiffany (Lawrence), entertaining, though I was aware that I was suspending disbelief while I watched. I guess I just don’t spend much time with people who’re so compulsive.

Midway through the story Pat Sr., who’s very superstitious, bets a fortune on a big game. Throughout the film the characters’ reverence for football is played out and I suppose some people’s lives do revolve around these hobbies in this fashion. I didn’t mind watching their rituals, but sometimes I felt manipulated. For example, Pat goes to a football game and sees his Indian shrink alight from a stereotypical bus that you’d see in New Delhi with Hindu gods painted on it. Never in a million years would this professional take that bus with all his Indian friends to a game. They might drive in sedans, but that wouldn’t serve the plot. Of course, some red necks bully the minorities and Pat gets into the fray after trying really hard not to. Will he be sent back to the mental hospital? That worry is worked throughout the film.

I think and hope we’re in the midst of a change in story paradigms so the conventions are more noticeable, and for me, disappointing. Adding a bet to a plot is so simplistic, such a cop out, as is abnormal psychology in characterization. I know bipolar people and they aren’t like Pat or Tiffany. Now those folks mainly take their meds, but not always. Also, there seems to be a disproportionate number of mentally ill characters on screens, big and small, in the U.S. now. Writers seem fascinated with them and I think they’re easier to write than other characters. I admit Tiffany’s personality, while abrasive to the nth degree was compelling, but the idea that a relationship with her as she is is a good idea for anyone was hard to buy. Lawrence got the Oscar for her performance, but the Academy falls for these sorts of characters a lot. While a crazy chick is a compelling character, I don’t think the performance ranks as best of the year, unless 2012 was a slow year for female roles.

I saw Silver Lining Playbook because my friend Michele recommended it strongly. It was a fine movie, but not a must see. I’m glad I didn’t spend $10 on a ticket.