Hey lovelies. Beau here with a recent trip to the David O. Russell multiverse, which has gotten tamer than I once remembered it.
I understood Pat Solitano, Jr. and Sr., their individual and collective struggles in life. Which isn’t to imply that both are readily and consistently sympathetic characters, far from it. But as I made a pitstop at the Landmark Cinemas in Los Angeles on Saturday, on my way home from a quick rendezvous with old friends, I made it a point to sneak in while I could to catch this film. All things considered, the talent involved was what intrigued me. Who better to direct a film about one individual’s struggle with his anger than David O. Russell, who experienced a nice bout of controversy years ago when videos of him and Lily Tomlin getting into it on the set of I ❤ Huckabees rose from the ashes? Who better to take on the role of a young man suffering an identity crisis and highs and lows than Cooper; he's been stuffed and compartmentalized into so many boxes in the industry that by this point the dude should be dead from paper cuts alone?
It’s only too ironic then, that Silver Linings Playbook is a bipolar affair...
It operates in fits and starts, bursts of manic welcome energy immediately followed by another scene where the film apologizes for its outbursts. It’s like watching a stand-up where the comedian is going off the rails, saying all the things you know to be true about life, relationships, work, etc. only to apologize immediately thereafter if it offended anyone. Armed to the teeth with an impressive cast who do their damnedest to make the material work, it’s hard to fault Silver for being a maindependent film, tackling prevalent issues and presenting them in an neat little box adorned with a red ribbon. That’s how exposure works; the pill has to go down smoothly, sans any kind of jagged edges. That’s how we learn. But as the issue of mental illness becomes even more prominent and public, as it has over the last decade, art has been quick to expose some of its inherent truths and produce works that accurately and humanely depict the highs and lows of this disease. (The Broadway musical Next to Normal comes to mind, as does Claire Danes’ storyline on Homeland, among others).
Where I take issue with Silver Linings is that it glosses over the real dangers of mental illness, much the same way Flight does with addiction (albeit in a different manner). It fancies itself a Capraesque fable for the twenty-first century, a love story between two damaged souls who find themselves in each other and move forward. Touching a sentiment as that is, it struck me as naive. It’s a film you settle into thinking it’s going to be this loud, strident, brash character study that then softens its voice, takes a breath and smiles falsely for what turns out to be a fairly straight, color-by-numbers narrative. I take issue with Silver Linings Playbook in the same way that I took issue with elements of Flight, the same way I took issue with Take Shelter.
You can’t bring us into this kind of environment and expect us to buy an easy resolution. Shit don’t work that way. An addiction, an illness, an infestation, a sore, an invasion doesn’t apologize for itself. We shouldn’t apologize for our reaction to it either.
Let the cuckoos cuckoo loudly. Let’s try to make out what they’re saying.