Because I almost never go to the movies anymore (for reasons I’ll discuss another time), I almost never see movies in the theater anymore. As I result, I don’t usually see a film until months after it has been released, reviewed, won awards, had a narrative formed about it, yadda yadda. At the moment I’m working my way through the Academy Award Contenders from this past year. (The Oscars are beyond stupid and do not at all provide a real measure of what was the best film from the past year, but I like to at least see the Best Picture nominees. Except Les Miserables. I’d rather feed my balls to a paper shredder than sit through a three-hour musical. But so far I’ve really liked Argo and Zero Dark Thirty (which I wrote about, among other things, here), been pleasantly surprised by how much I liked Life of Pi, and hated Django Unchained just as much as I thought I would (my disdain for Quentin Tarantino requires its own post)). The Best Picture contender I watched most recently: Silver Linings Playbook.
I went into Silver Linings Playbook with high expectations. I enjoy David O. Russell’s work, and consider Three Kings, I Heart Huckabees, and The Fighter to all be good to excellent films. I like Bradley Cooper. I love Jennifer Lawrence. Robert De Niro playing a bookie, even firmly ensconced in the mailing-in-performances-and-cashing-checks phase of his career, sounds great to me, too. I definitely understand what it’s like to be a crazy, superstitious football fan (I still give opposing kickers the two-finger jinx when they line up for a late-game field goal attempts). And I heard from several people who saw it that it was good.
Unfortunately, the film did not meet my expectations. Not that it was bad–there were things that were good very good about it: I thought Cooper (who I’m pre-disposed to like because he was an English major in college) was really, really good. I thought Chris Tucker in his supporting role was great. I thought the fight scene from the tailgate at Lincoln Field was awesome. And the scene where Cooper finishes A Farewell to Arms and chucks it out the window? I mean, I fucking love that book, but I had the exact reaction when I finished it, as it has one of the most cripplingly depressing endings in all of literature.
But I had a lot of problems with the film. We’ll start with a minor one: When De Niro tells Cooper “We have to win so we can go to the division,” that’s a phrase that no football fan would ever say–you’d say “If we win, we’ll win the division,” or “… so we can go to the playoffs.” I know this is a nitpick, but seriously, if an actor fucks up a line, edit or re-shoot the goddamn scene. I don’t care if it’s Robert De Niro.
Second, I didn’t think J-Law was all that great in the film. She’s not bad, by any means, but I wasn’t blown away by here. And once again, I LOVE JENNIFER LAWRENCE. She’s gorgeous, down-to-earth (seriously, how can you not love someone who gives an interview like this minutes after she wins an Oscar?), and I think she’s a really good actress. Her performance in Winter’s Bone, if you haven’t seen it, is fucking incredible. I even thought she was really good in the last X-Men movie. If actors and actresses had stock-trading prices, hers would be just about the highest in Hollywood. But I don’t think what she did in Silver Linings Playbook was all that impressive, and I don’t think it’s in the same class as what Jessica Chastain did in Zero Dark Thirty.
Finally, and this is the big one (SPOILER ALERT): The ending pissed me off, and if I had a mental illness I would be fucking irate about it. Cooper of course figures out he’s in love with J-Law, and not the wife he’s separated from him, and the last shot, of her sitting on his lap with both of them all lovey-dovey at a family dinner, implies that their falling in love is a magic cure for Cooper’s bipolarity. This is bullshit, and I think it’s disrespectful toward people who struggle with depression, bipolarity, and other mental illnesses. I would expect better from David O. Russell, especially given that his son attended a boarding school for special education students.
So that’s how I feel about Silver Linings Playbook. Did I miss something? Am I totally off base? Take to the comments and tell me what you think.