Silver Linings Playbook (2012): Almost Old Fashioned Fun

Unknown

I still remember the moment I saw the trailer for this film. Bradley Cooper is “speed” reading a book; he finishes, slams the book shut; looks at the book, looks up and says, “What…the…f***!” The next shot is the book flying through a closed window. If I remember correctly I spat out a mouthful of coffee and had a combined choking/laughing fit.

“This,” I said, “I’ve got to see.”

I then forgot all about it.

Then, I decided I didn’t want to see it.

Why? Because Jennifer Lawrence was in it.

Now hold on! Not because I don’t like this amazing young actress, but at that point she seemed to be in everything. The law of averages dictate that when you’re in that much stuff you are going to ‘suck big time’ in at least one role. It’s the law of averages, baby; it happens to them all.

Then on a whim, I watched the film.

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence: Pat and Tiffany trying to bond.
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence: Pat and Tiffany trying to bond.

What can I say, I was wrong.

Directed and adapted by David O Russell from Matthew Quick‘s novel of the same name, Silver Linings Playbook is principally about Pat (Bradley Cooper) and Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) and Pat’s family Pat Sr (Robert De Niro) and mom Dolores (Jacki Weaver).

Film score by Danny Elfman.

The film is also about family, coping, living, adapting, and trying. It is also about realisation and taking chances.

Pat is in a bad place in his life at the start of the film. He has been institutionalised and put on medication after he comes home and finds wife Nikki in the shower with a teacher colleague. He, quite understandably to my mind, freaks out and beats the shit out of the guy. While all this is going on, the music that played from his and Nikki’s wedding reception.

This music is a “trigger” for Pat and when he is upset or just hears the song, he gets very stressed and violent. The episode with Nikki culminates not only in his incarceration, but a diagnosis of Bi-Polar Disorder (what used to be termed Manic Depressive) and put on medication.

Pat gets released from the institute and his mom collects him. Pat is invited to an old friends house for dinner where he meets Tiffany, a young widow and the sister of his friend’s wife. She suffers from a mental disorder as well after she went “off the deep end” when her policeman husband was killed on duty.

Chris Tucker rocking it as Danny. Great Cameo, we missed you Chris.
Chris Tucker rocking it as Danny. Great cameo, we missed you Chris.

The rest of the film deals with Pat’s obsession with Nikki and his (almost) undying belief that they will get back together. Along the way, he is trying to reconcile with his parents, especially his OCD dad, and attempting to understand Tiffany. Meanwhile, he’s learning a dance routine with Tiffany for a contest.

This could have been a giant leap backwards in terms of film, it almost felt like the old romantic comedies of yesteryear. The only “new” element of this “RomCom” was the device of mental disorder affecting three of the main characters. I fell in love with all the characters, especially Pat and his family and Tiffany. All the actors really sold their roles and Chris Tucker in his cameo role as Danny rocked it.

Just a quick word about De Niro; he really did well as the OCD addicted gambler dad. He’s been “sleepwalking” a lot of his roles lately. It’s nice to see you wake up Robert; welcome back.

And another quick word about Jennifer Lawrence, she made me think of a young Angie Dickenson. If the powers that be ever decide to remake Rio Bravo, she could and should play Feathers.

This movie made me laugh, cringe, think and cry. It is no wonder that Lawrence won an Oscar for her performance and that this film got so many nominations (and a BAFTA). It is that good.

An easy 5 out of 5 stars for a film that delivers it all. A word of advice have tissues handy you’ll need them, I did.

Lawrence getting that well deserved Oscar.
Lawrence getting that well deserved Oscar.

Case 39 (2009): Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice…Not

Case 39

Directed by Christian Alvart (he also directed PandorumCase 39 is a brilliant little horror/thriller. It stars Renée Zellweger , Ian McShane, and Jodelle Ferland. It is interesting to note that even though the film was actually finished in 2007. It did not get an American release until 2010.

The “Reader’s Digest” version of the plot is as follows:

Social worker Emily Jenkins (Zellweger) is overworked and tired.  She is assgined ‘case 39’ which deals with an innocent  ten year old girl, Lily Sullivan (Ferland) who is being abused by her parents. This abuse is confirmed when Lily’s parents put her in the oven to burn her to death. Emily asks her friend Detective Mike Barron (McShane) to help her. Mike and Emily rescue Lily and her parents are put in a mental institution.

CASE 39
CASE 39 (Photo credit: Galactinet Prensa)

Emily takes Lily home to look after her until a foster family can be found. Once Lily moves in, however, strange things begin to happen. Another case of Emily’s, a boy named Diego, kills both his parents. Detective Barron (McShane) tells Emily that the boy received a phone call just before he killed them. Emily suspects that Lily was somehow involved and arranges for her best friend, psychiatrist Douglas Ames ( Bradley Cooper fresh from  The Hangover  and moving right on to The A-Team and Limitless) to evaluate Lily. During the evaluation Lily soon gains the upper hand and starts evaluating Ames, finding out what his fears are. Later in the evening Ames gets a phone call and dies horribly.

Lily starts acting very strange. Her demeanor is that of an adult. As she begins to take over Emily and ultimately scaring her quite badly. Emily decides to talk to Lily’s parents. The body count begins to rise as Emily comes to the realization that Lily is not an abused child and is not at all innocent.

With a budget of $27 million and a box office of $28 million the film did just make it’s production costs back. I am a little puzzled as to why the film fared so poorly. Alvart does a cracking job with the film. The cinematography was sharp and well lit. The actors all gave top notch performances. Ian McShane, who has turned into character actor extraordinaire was very good and Bradley Cooper, in a part that was little more than a cameo, came across brilliantly as the doomed Psychiatrist. Jodelle Ferland did what she does best, be creepy. Her bona fides include Kindom Hospital (TV) Silent Hill and recently The Cabin in the Woods.

Of course Ms Zellweger gave a more than credible performance as the capable but overworked social worker. She makes the transition from strong and caring to terrified and confused with no problem. I was a bit concerned, I’ll admit, big name ‘stars’ do not generally do horror films and if they do (unless they are Gregory Peck) they look a little out of place. My only complaint was that I kept thinking of her as Bridget Jones.

I am slightly amazed that the film did not do better when it was released. We saw it via a rental and loved it. After we watched it we bought it. I realize that a lot of audiences don’t like films that deal with violence to children and honestly that is the only reason I can think of for the film to fare so badly.

I could not take my eyes off the screen while watching this film. I didn’t have a clue  who the “big bad” was until the film told me. The body count was not huge, but the casualties were well done and memorable. I would caution anyone who is thinking about adoption or taking on the role of foster parent to give this film a miss.

It could put you right off.