I Love This: Silver Linings Playbook

2hr 0min - Rated R - Comedy

Silver Linings Playbook

Director: David O. Russell – Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Jackie Weaver, Julia Stiles, Chris Tucker, John Ortiz, Anupam Kher, Shea Whigham

(You’ll love this film if you liked I Heart Huckabees, Up in the Air, Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)


Love, rage, patience, unfulfilled potential. Waiting, conflicting voices.

Old-fashioned Mother. Steadfast, supportive, the quiet soul, non-judging, lives for her boys. Only with her tacit consent could these men have evolved as they have. The dominant yet benign father, the do-good successful son, the dark horse held back by others’ spotlight.

Mentally ill. Strange. Unsound. Unbalanced and wrong in the head. Haunted. How often do the gods fill a human mold faultlesslty? How often do our thoughts run and run downward, off kilter, sometimes so distraught there seems no remedy?

Conflicted, un-fittable no matter how they try. White-knuckling for years, children with little souls learning to cope as life turns them into stunned adults.

Two sisters. The one who pushes and gets. The other gets taken.

Female/Male stereotypes wielded like steel batons: Woman harassed by stalking male; the slut everyone taunts but wants to have sex with; the emotionally shut, unintelligible father.  The scenes play out like mini tragicomedies, so familiar, pathetic and wrong and pedestrian. We see them played every day; we play them. Silver Linings Playbook reflects back to us. Why do we hurt others like this?

Tiffany’s too young to be a widow; she cries onto a stranger, wrapping herself futilely around his unyielding form. Patrick Solitano’s reaction is stony, incredulous. Rebuffed, she falls away and walks off, lonesome and tall, shoulders hunched, in her high heels.

Startling, Tiffany darts up to Pat on neighborhood jogs. She yells and pulls. She defies his attempts to cut her from his side; she braves his rejection. Perplexed by this unearned allegiance, he holds his wedding ring high and proud, symbol of safety, of happiness. The gold circle is a life-saver, keeping his precarious mind afloat and tying him to everything he wants and lost: his wife Nikki, job, home.

Once in the steam of an adulterous shower, Pat lost his mind to almost kill a man in jealous rage. He was sent to prison for eight months and when his parole sentence was over, his mother came and released him. He now lives in his childhood home, wrestling demons in the tiny attic. Boxed-up flotsam drifts around his bed as he tries to re-fasten his life. The task: he has to prove himself worthy of the wife he must return to.

Things are complicated. Nikki has a restraining order against Pat. But Tiffany is sister to Veronica, Nikki’s best friend. They cross paths, pass in orbit. Missives are smuggled in by an equally begrudging and willing Tiffany. Patrick writes Nikki a letter, to which she replies. Nikki’s letter promises, show me a sign. Show me that you are fixed. I need you to be no longer fat, no longer muddled and muffled and violent and unrealized. If you can be those things, I can love you, her letter says. Just like he hoped.

Tiffany can help Pat, yet is strained by the magnitude of her own heartache. She is a lost vessel, adrift in a sea of grief, of mis-fit, of rawness that she cannot disguise. We don’t know what she sees in Pat but it’s a doorway in a neighborhood of walls. With reckless yet determined trust, Tiffany offers him a chance to prove his goodness to Nikki by being a friend to her. She convinces him that he can show kindness by partnering her in a dance contest because that is what she asks and what she needs however inconvenient. However unreasonable.

They practice and walk through their private grieving, with parents who don’t know how to help them, in neighborhoods that cannot absorb them. They walk among their friends and families trying to re-fit the pieces that no longer fit or never fit. Patterns of pain and coping are played out, are blown open, sometimes even healed.

Does pain divvy itself up to the ugly and underpaid? Where are brains ribboned with fire born? You might say in the strangest of us, those few who we wish to remain behind white locked walls. Our consciousness recoils from pain, from poverty, from frailty. We’ll do much to cover it, we’ll pay millions of dollars to gloss it, to romance and polish it. Don’t get too sharp; don’t get too close. I’m normal I tell you!

We don’t want to believe that the ability to crack broods somewhere in all of us. There’s too much to lose. Yet we all lose, every day, minute by minute we live with loss and failure, with uncertainty. How many plans are unfulfilled? How many breaths are taken while we struggle, struggle, cope. We think we are losers. We climb towards being winners. Pretend. Cover, do up hair, cinch the belt, speak the rehearsed.

And the universe is laughing at this flimsy ploy. When we witness Tiffany’s aggression and anger, when we watch Patrick unravel, we know that this is us like we know the curve of our fingers, like we know the sound of our voice. We know that this is me, this is who I am when I think no one is watching. Ronnie, Pat’s best friend, reflects our knowing, hiding in his garage despondently shaking his head to Megadeath while he mentally chokes beneath the pressures of his success.

What a gift to look at a creation, a giant screen of pixels such as in this film “Silver Linings Playbook”, a film only loosely adapted from Matthew Quick’s acclaimed 2008 novel. To look and see down, down past skin.

Much of our lives are dominated by ploys to keep us from seeing. Most visual information is gilded surface; promising joy if we just believe in these silky, glossy fabrications.

That woman with the deep vee of pale cleavage, she’s available and yet untouchable. She is successful and yet needs you to complete her. That man with heroic shoulders and shocking blue eyes, his garage houses a sports car, he wants to take you places and he will get you. If you opened a popular magazine featuring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence decked out in their ball-gowns and tux, or rough with grime and scowls, their striking beauty would call out, would ask your eyes to light with admiration.

And that is all. We are discouraged from thought beyond that snapped moment. Advertisers, photographers, sellers want us to live in that moment and live for that moment of beauty, of admiration. Funny though how it is just a moment, simply a short space in time. Then the lights dim, the posing stops and the person walks across the room to get a drink of water, to call a friend, to add an errand to their list. They take a shower and paint sweeps down the drain, jeans are drawn on, socks searched for and pulled up. An eye is scratched. Worries crowd in and the day moves on in its thousands of other minutes that are the overwhelming bulk of life. Yes, Angelina Jolie cries. She butters toast, she changes diapers. Jennifer Lawrence looks fantastic in a bikini. But those hips and that chest house rushing blood and particles of air, that mind holds memories and dreams and fears like every little girl, like every young girl, like every woman, like every person. Beautiful and strange, celebrated and plain, cracked and healed and cracked again. Like all of us.

David O. Russel rocks for finding the means to portray such pathos in a way that we can accept. Tiffany challenges Patrick: Can you forgive yourself? I like that this film allowed me to glimpse my own frailty, my own strangeness, and yes, forgive.

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