Chaos Attraction

Silver Linings Playbook Review

2012-12-29, 7:49 p.m.

Spoilers abound for "Silver Linings Playbook" in here, be forewarned.

Before I begin the actual review....

I was really surprised as how many people went to this one. It's being shown at the "indie" theater, and I went at 3:30 in the afternoon on a Saturday during "dead time" in town. But damn, it kept filling the hell up. When I go to movies by myself, I usually tuck myself away on a far left or right hand seat so as not to interfere with or annoy everyone else who comes in pairs. As long as the movie isn't a new release/geek bait/nighttime show, this usually works great. But noooo, not this time. I had people piling in all over me. There was even some random couple who came in a minute before the show started and they insisted on one of them sitting next to me and the other one sitting in the (broken! I saw people sitting and then getting out of it!) seat in front of me. I know I should have Been Nice and gotten up and sat in the crap chair so they could sit together, and Mom would have...but fuck couples, I got there first when the theater opened, darn it, and they could have sat around the front end of the theater if they had to be a twosome. There was plenty of room if you were in the first 8 rows.

During the movie, I was knitting (working on my yarn bombing, so I didn't really need to see or pay attention to what I was knitting as long as it was scarflike and using up my scraps) and at one point, the ball hopped out of the drink holder and rolled itself halfway down the fucking aisle. I pretty much faceplanted it trying to catch it before it went all the way down. Yeah, that's stupid...but better that happen on an aisle seat than if if rolled down beneath every damn seat in the middle, so there you go.

Anyway, enough on me being an asshole and insisting on knitting during shows--so sue me, I hate sitting still in the dark for hours-- on to the movie!

This was a movie that I'd bring up to people as a possible one to see, and then they'd stare at me funny and say in a tone of disgust, "What's that?" I quickly gave up on trying to explain why I thought it would be interesting, especially since my reasons for seeing it pretty much boiled down to "Jennifer Lawrence." If she wasn't in it, I doubt I would have had interest in it. Indeed, I think I spent the first hour of the movie--well, not thinking it sucked or anything, but definitely wondering why I'd thought this might be good. It's not bad at the start, but it is tiring.

The plot of it is that Pat is a 30something Philly dude who found his wife schtupping another teacher in their shower--while listening to their wedding song-- and went utterly ballistic and beat the shit out of the dude right then and there. He gets diagnosed as bipolar and spends 8 months in an institution before his mother takes him out against doctors' advice. You figure out pretty much instantly that this was a bad decision, because Pat is not better. To his credit, he's taken up jogging and reading Great Literachoor (his wife's an English teacher) in hopes of getting his wife back, but....well, there's a restraining order, the neighbors and his old coworker are terrified of him, and for good reason! Pat has quite the screaming, thrashing temper that he has little or no control over, and he's not taking his meds. Hell, he flips out just hearing that song. Watching him made me feel forever grateful that all of the bipolar folks I've known weren't screamers, because he made me tired just watching him. Bradley Cooper certainly does mentally ill well, but man, I was so glad I wasn't this dude's parents. You're glad the cops come by about every 20 minutes to check on him.

Oh, speaking as an English major who well, hates almost all of Great Literachoor, I deeply enjoyed the scene where Pat finished reading "A Farewell To Arms" and is enraged at the happy ending being taken away from the characters. Why can't reading be uplifting, he asks. Sir, I have felt the same way my entire school career.

Pat goes to dinner at a friend's house--the friend's wife (Julia Stiles) is still friends with Nikki the wife--along with Julia's recently widowed sister Tiffany. Pat and Tiffany sort of argue and yet sort of hit it off when discussing the joys of medication. Both of them are super awkwardly blunt human beings to boot, to the point of rudeness. Their first few interactions are damned awkward, but interesting. And while you're pretty convinced early on that Tiffany's at least somewhat nuts after the death of her husband and these two as a pairing is terrible, they eventually come to a good friendship upon hanging out. Tiffany offers at one point to break the restraining order and slip a letter to Nikki for Pat, but later makes him enter a ballroom dance competition with her before she'll do it because she needs a partner. And Pat improves, goes back on the meds, etc.

There's also a good chunk of plot going on about how Pat's dad is a bookie and how he's convinced that Pat is some kind of good luck charm for him. At one point he bets a shitton of money on a game and then sends Pat to go to it in person with his brother for extra good luck. (The game is during dance practice time, which ticks Tiffany off.) People get in fights outside the game, drama ensues, the Eagles lose, and Pat's dad starts blaming Tiffany for it. Tiffany, even though she claims to not be into football, can immediately recite that every game day Pat has spent hanging out with her, the Eagles won. After that, she wins the dad's love. It's cute.

When it comes to the letter Pat wrote to Nikki....well, Tiffany gives him a letter back. It's pretty obvious from the getgo (especially with the filming of her face as he reads) that Tiffany wrote it to be nice. Especially since the note is so helpful and hopeful, the likes of which you cannot possibly imagine someone who had a restraining order out on you for beating the shit out of her boyfriend writing. Unless it's Rhianna, anyway. Grrrrrr. To his credit, Pat eventually figures that out and doesn't lose his shit about it.

After that, another whopping bet is placed, with the same-day requirements that (a) the Eagles win, and (b) Pat and Tiffany, newbie/"okay" at ballroom dance, can get a 5.0 score from the judges. Pat doesn't want to do it, but Tiffany figures out that he'll do it if someone tells him Nikki will be there.Since this is a competition with pros at it, they don't expect or even try to win, which I thought was great. Refreshing.

Especially since...hoo boy, this was the fucking strangest "ballroom" dance routine you've ever damn seen in any movie. It has three cut together songs in it, none of which go with each other, and I think they were uh...stopping the ballroom to do some disco or something? at the first cut. Very strange. At one point, they attempt to tap dance (from Singin' In The Rain, I think) without tap shoes for no good reason. And they attempt to do "the lift" from Dirty Dancing, last seen done cutely in Crazy Stupid Love. In this movie, they bungle it even more than Baby Houseman first did. Like, her crotch is in his face for a long period of time level of bunglehood. Hoo boy, did they deserve like, 3's by the end of it. But one judge insanely gives them a 5.4, balancing out everyone else's scores, and they get the 5.0 and are ridiculously excited about it.

Much to Tiffany's horror, Nikki actually shows up at the event. This also seemed very implausible to me for someone who has a restraining order out on someone to actually be in their vicinity--again, something only Rhianna would do. Gah, don't get me started on that girl's life choices.... Anyway, Tiffany huffs out when she sees Pat go to talk to her, but later he finds Tiffany and gives her his own "I know what you did, I love you" letter that he wrote a week ago. And darned if it doesn't work, because they both seem more together and less rage-y now and it's cute.

As for Jennifer Lawrence... On the one hand, she is totally the wrong age for this part. She looks 21 at the most (though the lady does not reveal her age in this), and you can easily see in your brain how this character would work more plausibly if she was oh, 35, because right now it looks like she married a cop at age 18. On the other hand, she really, really works this part well. She inhabits this world of Phillies-lovers and macho men, she's unfazed by that shit, she holds her ground and except for the Nikki-lies, is blatant about who she is and what her issues are and why and how. She's a kickass personality, and I love those.

I also have to give props to Julia Stiles. I've always had a soft spot for her, and she's kind of an unsung hero in the few scenes she's in. She's kind of supposed to be "the bitch" with regards to her husband, I think, and they try to make her obsessed with her house ("check our weird fireplace! iPod docks in every room!") and a snob for not approving of Pat's wearing of a football jersey to the house, but given the situation, I think she's doing the best she can in dealing with these crazy folks. I especially liked her "oh my god, I can't believe this dance they are doing" face at the end.

In the end, I quite liked it and applause broke out in the theater.

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