Friday, January 18, 2013

Silver Linings. Or, it's okay, EVERYONE'S a little bit mental!

On New Year’s Day, before the Oscar nominations, before the Golden Globes, before I had realized I had only 7 weeks before hardcore rehearsals for my Oscarpalooza Party Parody, I watched the trailer for Silver Linings Playbook.  Odd title, methought.  Not exactly punchy, and what the cat’s dumplings is a ‘playbook’?  (Rest easy, I know now, sports fans.)  I clicked the icon over ‘play.’

I was stuck to the screen like Martha to her hot glue gun; drawn to it like mercury up a thermometer, iron filings to a magnet, wine to my face.  It was the Lumineers soundtrack, the dialogue, the intensity, and I realized, as the trailer finished and I gulped for air, I had forgotten to breathe.  I made an agreement with Self that, with or without a date, I would see this film.  So, as the snow fell late on Tuesday night, while all the sensible people were tucked up at home, battening down the hatches, polishing their shovels and weighing their pounds of Miracle Melt, I thought, fuck it! I’m going to the movies!

I’m not going to review it, for movie-going is subjective, and I don’t want to be responsible for awkward date nights booked on my advice; neither am I going to blow it for you and reveal the intricacies of the plot, but I am going to share how it made me feel: hopeful. 

You’ll remember, I was not thrilled with the 2011 hit Crazy Stupid Love (if you don’t—tsk!—here it is:  I just hated the fact Steve Carrell’s character did not fight for his beautiful wife.  (Well, not until the end.)  In SLPB, Pat Solitano, Bradley Cooper, is released from Baltimore Nuthouse and will not stop fighting.

He’s the underdog who refuses to take his meds; who endures Farewell to Arms, Lord of the Flies etc., to improve himself and impress his English teacher wife; who works out fanatically in a rubbish bin bag to get in shape and be a better version of himself.  Okay, it’s Hollywood, this version is already pretty good—I certainly wouldn’t nudge him out of bed for a cup of tea and a buttered crumpet—Cooper portrays a character so hurt, so vulnerable, so unstable, so riddled with shortcomings, but he tries, and THAT, THAT is utterly endearing.  (And the fact he eats cereal.  Bless ‘im!)

He is an unusually flawed hero with heart.  And I think that is why this odd, confrontationally charming rom com written and directed by David O. Russell actually got a nod for Best Picture.  It doesn’t have CGI, or 3-D effects, or malnourished actors shaving their heads, or almighty flesh-ripping shoot outs; it has emotion, a visible beating heart.  Best Picture Nominees, if the titles were honest!

De Niro—who I am used to seeing as some mean badass mofo—weeps, actually weeps!  In the scene where he wakes his sleeping son and stokes his hair, telling him how he should have been a better father…  his chin gets wobbly and his lips tremble and—Holy Carumba—droplets quiver in his saggy eye skin (Bob, I have tube of eye renewal with your name on it).  It was a really touching quiet moment.  But the movie is made up of them, each scene someone’s heart is served up on a platter to be held, squished or stamped on.  Each scene is driven by dimensional characters, nuance, by deft acting, not effects.
You can read every emotion, every jolt of surprise, bright gleam of delight, moony haze of remembrance, flicker of rage, every sad halo of disappointment as it passes through Cooper’s eyes.  He is the exuberant puppy who gets kicked, and goes a little psycho, but really I get that.

For all his violent kray-kray, wacko mood swings he has really good intentions.  I mean, I feel pissed off when I read Hemingway!  I do get a bit WOO WEE *colourful explosion of expletives* when I have lost something I cannot find.  For instance, when searching for my AWOL passport at 4am, hours before my flight, that sort of thing.  I certainly think—you know, just a hypothetical, I’m not giving the plot away AT ALL—but if I came home to find my husband chowing down on lady bits in our shower, yup, I might throw a few things.  Probably stilettos.  At Miss Lunchables head.  It’s a natural reaction.  It’s human.  Pat’s human, he just lacks a fuse.  He has an instant ignition, and no filter, like a small child without artifice, or pretense, just genuinely reacting, albeit in a socially unacceptable way.
Pat, his passionate father and enabling mother, try to cope with his bipolar behaviour, assisted by the pleasant staccato of Dr. Patel.  I hope this is not too un-P.C.—you know how that would bother me deeply—but it was really lovely to hear a clipped Indian accent—are my British roots showing?  Really, it’s true.  It’s a big, old country is India, I know because I’ve been there, and I listened in Geography, yet I don’t hear the unique strains of the Indian melodious chirp in many Hollywood films.  I digress.  Pat’s therapist recommends he find a strategy.  Pat focuses like an Olympian on being positive and is able to overlook the bathroom buffet, except when Stevie Wonder’s Cherie Amour is playing.  He puts all his energy on the one thing that means everything to him, his wife; or the memory of her.  The problem with looking ahead and seeing the goal posts in the distance, means you are not watching the man about to tackle you, or perhaps the wing woman team player that is there by your side all along.

When he meets Tiffany, played by Jennifer Lawrence, he is challenged in the crazy stakes.  She is an equally imperfect heroine.  Though not bipolar, she is a recovering sex addict and depressed widow, so it’s not her brain lacking a fuse or filter, she just doesn’t give a shit about convention, so does what she wants (or who she wants) and says what she means.  I have to admire that kind of ballsy woman.  She is not afraid of asking for the things she wants.

They are friends, with a capital ‘F’, because, he is—don’t forget—completely obsessed with getting back with his wife, but she challenges the crazy in his eye, and together, they make sense.  He helps her, she helps him; tit for tat; quid pro quo.  But platonic relationships are never really that even, are they Steven?  Nope.  And in Lawrence’s iced gaze, which most times could freeze kittens, you see a reflection of affection forming and warming her cold front.

He reluctantly agrees to learn a dance routine with Tiffany, in exchange for her contacting his wife—the restraining order preventing him from doing so.  To push them closer into “hold” his book making father wagers to win all his money in a parlay based on the success of the Eagles and… Pat and Tiffany’s dance scores.

Yes dancing.  The activity that brings men and women together like no other.   (Well, not including sex.)  It is where flesh and sweat and touch meet, sizzling like fine filet on a hot hibachi stone.  It is Pat, in the end, for whom the dance becomes more important.  And they are lovely together, not like Johnny and Baby, it’s more natural than that: no professional polish, no stiffness, fake tan or plastic smile—and he still hasn’t found a razor—it’s just unadulterated fun they have together, and, crazy or not, shouldn’t that be what relationships are all about?  Two people who are better versions of themselves together than apart?  Who are a team?  Who laugh and can be naked and ridiculous and FUN together?

So, I said that this film made me hopeful.  I don’t mean to wrap mental illness, addictions or afflictions in a cutesy chocolate box.  Approximately 5.7 million American adults are currently affected by bipolar disorder.  Approximately 40 million American adults suffer from anxiety disorder which can include one or many of the following: panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, agoraphobia, etc.

Approximately 17.6 million American adults are alcoholics.  Apparently, though I am not overly sure how they projected this figure, but, according to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, nearly 12 million American’s are sex addicts.

Clearly, everyone is fucking nuts, so maybe we should be fucking Nuts.  But let’s get back to the hope bit.  It is this: that with all these disorders, phobias, addictions, the human spirit is mighty and it can fight, and when you fight and you try, and you don’t stop trying, that’s when you find those who are important, cheering you along.

Never give up, dear Reader.  Never.  Give.  Up.


  1. Thoroughly enjoyable!! It's been on my radar to go and see.

  2. Prefer the dark cloud