The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

After spending time in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano ("Bradly Cooper) moves back in with his parents (Robert Di Niro and Jackie Weaver) and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) , a mysterious girl with problems of her own.

The coming attractions told me nothing useful about this movie, almost as if the studio was worried about it finding an audience. I knew Chris Tucker had decided to do something other than collect "Rush Hour" residuals, and that Di Niro actually seemed to be acting, but other than that...not much.

When I finally sat down and watched it, I was reminded of Lawrence Olivier's "Love Among The Ruins" in the sense that it is a story about two damaged human beings doing the porcupine mating dance--backing together very very carefully. Cooper was destroyed by his wife's cheating, is a twitchy, dysfunctional mess who believes he can hold himself together and hopefully reunite with his wife if he can seek out life's "silver linings." A dose of reality comes his way in the person of Jennifer Lawrence, a young woman just as damaged...but with her wounds in different parts of her personality.

She promises to help him reconnect with his wife (there is a restraining order) if he helps her compete in a dance contest. In and around this slender plot thread is Di Niro's obsession with football betting, and Chris Tucker's refusal to allow the mental institution to define him. The acting is wonderful across the board, and ultimately, by being specific enough about a particular difficult and fragile relationship, Silver Linings Playbook becomes about all of us, in our wounds and hopes and self delusion. And...astonishing capacity to stand up and reach out, again and again, despite the endless blows we suffer. To have faith that dawn will come, even in the midst of the darkest night. I was asked if I could recommend a "chick flick" for a reader, and if that term denotes a film held together more by dialog and emotions than plot twists and explosions, SLP over-qualifies. And it is enjoyable top to bottom. And yes, Di Niro is better than I've seen him in years. A "B+".
Hero's Journey analysis:
1) Hero Confronted with challenge: Released from a mental institution, Pat Solitano attempts to re-integrate his life.
2) Rejection of challenge: but he cannot do this without resolving his relationship with the wife who betrayed him. But little does he know that
3) Accepts Challenge: Tiffany, a young woman as damaged as he, is determined to drag him kicking and screaming back into life, by fair means or foul.
4) Road of Trials: he tries to get his job back. To heal his relationship with his family. To contact his wife. To lose weight and balance himself with exercise.
5) Allies and Powers: his family, nutballs though they are. His friend Danny (Chris Tucker), Tiffany, even his image of his wife. He has intelligence, passion, hope, resilience, a sense of humor...and finally, not a bad set of dancing skills.
6) Confront Evil-Defeat. That would be telling.
7) Dark Night of the Soul. His failure will mean devastation for his family. He has to take a certain very uncomfortable set of actions, for all the marbles.
8) Leap of Faith. In his own capacities, but more than that, in Tiffany.
9) Confront Evil--victory. He definitely has his moment, in which his choices determine the future path of his life.
10) The Student Becomes the Teacher--he is able to finally reach back honestly to someone who has emptied herself out trying to help him, touch him. Love him.

I saw myself a dozen times in this film. And if that isn't a measure of quality, I don't know what is.

Submitted for your approval...

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