Silver Linings Playbook (2012): Almost Old Fashioned Fun

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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.

Red Lights (2012): Little Things That You Do

Written and directed by Rodrigo Cortés (BuriedThe ContestantRed Lights is really a psychological  cum paranormal thriller. Rodrigo’s last film Buried did so well, that the studios obviously trusted him to work with the big money, aka star actors. You cannot really get much bigger than veteran actors Robert De NiroSigourney Weaver, and Joely Richardson.

Add into this already heady mix, the more ‘recent’ dependable actors in the guise of Cillian MurphyElizabeth Olsen and Toby Jones and you have a vehicle that just smacks of success. The “Readers Digest” version of the plot is as follows:

Sigourney Weaver

Dr Matheson (Weaver) is a psychologist who is also a veteran paranormal “debunker.” She works with her assistant  Dr Buckley (Murphy) who is a physicist. The beginning of the film sees the two “debunking” a typical haunting. That the two are fond of each other is apparent; these two are not just colleagues, they are friends.

After they finish, Matheson asks Buckley to drop her off at the hospital to see her comatose son, who is hooked up to a life support machine.

We next see the two presenting a class to university students. They are “teaching” them how to ‘fake’ a seance. We are introduced very briefly to Sally Owen (Olsen) who after the class approaches Dr Buckley to turn in an assignment. She clearly likes him and they go out  to a diner.  Buckley explains to Sally about  “red lights” which are the subtle tricks that fraudsters use to fool the gullible.

Robert De Niro at the premiere of Tennessee at...

Enter Simon Silver (De Niro) a blind older version of Uri Geller. He can bend spoons, practice telepathy and apparently can levitate. He is making his first public appearance in over thirty years. He ‘retired’ when one of his most fervent denouncers dramatically had a heart attack and died during Silver’s last public appearance.

Buckley wants to immediately investigate Silver and prove that he is a fraud. Dr Matheson urges Buckley to leave it alone. She had faced Silver thirty years ago and she maintains that he is too powerful to be touched. She also reveals that when she had gone up against Silver before, her young son suddenly toppled over and he has never regained conciousness.

Buckley ignores Matheson’s warning and starts investigating Silver anyway.

The build up of suspense in this film was brilliant. It played more like a mystery/thriller for three quarters of the film. The characters of Matheson and Buckley and Owen were drawn so well that we immediately felt a connection with them. In essence before the first twenty minutes of the film we found that we liked them and cared about what they were doing.

I was a little disappointed that Joely Richardson did not have more to do. She played Silver’s manager/agent and she came across as malevolent and not a little scary. De Niro did what he does best. He dominates the screen with his presence alone. He is still capable of catching our attention without saying a word.

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Elizabeth Olsen gave a very sturdy performance as Buckley’s love interest/partner in crime. Cillian Murphy was the stand-out performance in this film. He has come a long way since 28 Days Later and Inception.

English: Actor Cillian Murphy in 2010.

IMDb gives Red Lights a 6.6 out of  10. I would rate it higher just for the high quality of the acting and for the well woven plot. It is one of those films that you should see at least twice to catch every nuance the film has to offer. Just like the “red lights” mentioned by Buckley, the film will mislead you and trick you.

Despite the mediocre and misleading marketing of the film, it is worth the price of admission and splashing out for a bag of popcorn and a coke.