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Thursday
Feb072013

Second Viewings Playbook

David here. What induces you to give a film a second viewing? Usually, I suspect it comes down to adoration, and the desire to feel that rush of emotion again, whether it was delirious laughter, cathartic sobbing or immobilising terror. The 'Repeaters' are the films that become mainstays of your life, the comfort food, the personal canon. We’ve all got them.

Robert's second viewing face

Rarer, though, are the second viewings induced by curiosity. There are so many movies from every decade and country that there’s really always something new to watch -- why waste time on something you’ve already seen and didn’t even like that much? Movies, especially in Oscar season, don’t exist in a vacuum – there is so much discussion around movies, be it from friends or critics or random people on the internet like me, that sometimes you’re forced to think about films you didn't respond to more often than you would have otherwise. Sometimes you find yourself needing to reevalute.

A case in point after the jump...

By the time most of us clapped our eyes on Silver Linings Playbook, we’d already ridden the internet rollercoaster from the first festival cries of “sensational crowd pleaser!” to pockets of bewildered critical reaction to the Weinsteins’ achingly slow US release pattern. I joined the bewildered crowd, expecting more dramatic depth and insight into mental illness from a film touted as an Oscar contender. I was especially disappointed by the formulaic patterns of the climax.

BCoop and JLaw

Fast-forward a few months. After months of continuing confusion over the adoration for the film the ever-eloquent Guy Lodge wrote a superb defence of the film’s place in the Oscar line-up, and I was suddenly jonesing to revisit it. Sometimes, being in full knowledge of a film’s narrative wiggles can really work in its favour – facial expressions, nuggets of dialogue, and background details can all take on different textures only intended for repeat viewing. (Although the one plot twist that provoked surprised whispers from the audience both times I saw it – you probably know the one – was easy to suss out several scenes earlier, no? Or am I just a superior human being?)

Reactions to movies can depend on our moods, too. My second viewing of Silver Linings Playbook came in the company of a friend who was in for her first (who, incidentally, almost precisely matched my initial reactions – validation!). Buoyed by her presence and an unexpected free ticket, I was in joyous territory as the lights went down.

Chris Tucker as 'Danny'Silver Linings Playbook still unquestionably has some pacing issues, but I really grooved to a texture that had bypassed me first time around. The film is an arch reinvention of a manic screwball type from the late ‘30s, with a small band of characters who pop up with their catchphrases (“I’m making crabbie snacks and homemades”) or are always there (Dash Mihok, the only policeman in town!). The increasingly pressurised entanglement of threads and characters peaks in that explosive scene where Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) confronts Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro) and ends up suggesting a ludicrous bet that bookie Randy (Paul Herman) is rather bananas to accept. Tiffany’s sudden appearances on Pat’s (Bradley Cooper) jogging routes make her seem like a spin on Katharine Hepburn’s obsessive kook Susan Vance from Bringing Up Baby (one of the finest films ever made, in my book, and one for discussion at TFE soon due to its 75th anniversary). Chris Tucker repeatedly spins into the film, leaves a variation on his vibrant, slyly unbalanced energy, and is dragged back out again like an escaped convict.

Characters in classic screwball probably were bipolar, though we generally experienced only the highs. David O. Russell and cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi often move the camera in messy, energetic zooms, giving the screwball tone unruly compositions that the studio system never quite allowed. As such, this is never a beautiful film in the traditional sense, but it has an unconventional, surprising way of catching these characters in their many configurations. (The amount of times Jacki Weaver makes a sudden, echoing appearance became too many to count)

All the singles ladies put your hands up...

Silver Linings Playbook twists those classic trajectories of a manic woman pulling a sadsack man out of a deadening engagement with a woman who doesn’t really love him but it settles for a more placid ending than the heightened comedic stinger of something like Bringing Up Baby. Maybe I should have read Manohla Dargis’ informed review earlier.

My new experience of Silver Linings Playbook might switch again with another viewing; it feels like a contextual issue, one of mood and angles from which to react to the narrative formulas. What felt deeper was the sublime textures of Bradley Cooper’s performance. He so effortlessly modulates the unmodulatable – those wild variations in his mood are such precise reactions to his surroundings -- that it’s a shame when the last act of the movie removes us from that consciousness.

Would that the Oscars of old had recognised Silver Linings Playbook’s predecessors, but it’s unexpectedly large bounty on Oscar nomination morning suggests that there’s a more youthful heart in the Academy than we usually credit them with – people more likely to respond to what Dargis describes as screwball’s tendency to “reflect the wild unpredictability of the greater world”. Personally, I’d glad I’ve found the silver lining in what I previously judged to be a misguidedly formulaic playbook.

Have you had any revelatory second viewings lately? What inspired them?

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Reader Comments (24)

I watched The Master again and plays like a straight forward movie and crystal clear in its storytelling.

On Silver Linings, how come no one mentions the importance of the two Stevie Wonder songs?

February 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

I watched the movie Kids (1995) for the second time in ten years yesterday. I still thought it was a great movie, but I think I got a lot more out of it seeing it as an adult. The first time I saw it, I think I was caught up in a lot of the shock value of it, and thought it was kind of exciting (I hadn't seen many independent movies at that time). The story and the sad situations of the characters got to me more. Chloe Sevigny's performance as Jennie was heartbreaking. I couldn't see myself watching it again anytime soon, but I'm glad I saw it again.

February 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMeghan

I appreciated Silver Linings more on my second viewing, but i still have a hard time with Jacki Weaver's Oscar nom. She did good work but nothing to really stand out as an Oscar nominee. I still think she got that nom riding the wave of hype for the film totally knocking over Kidman and Dowd who were floating around for that last spot. I can see DeNiro's nom more based on his mini-version of Ellen Burstyn's epic monologue from Requiem for a Dream. Scenes like that just make you want to hug your parents.

The second viewing that really helped me out the most was when i watched Birth. (This wasn't recent but it is what really sticks out for me.) The first time? I wanted to see what the big fuss about the content was about. When i watched it, I thought the opera scene shot was super uncomfortable and i found myself diverting my eyes elsewhere. I pretty much hated the ending and thought it made the movie a complete waste.

The second time? I don't remember why i decided to watch it again but it was about a 3-4 year gap in between. Maybe i became a little more savvy in between those couple of years because i really got to appreciate the film more. The ending left alot to think about and the opera scene was pure actressing on Kidman's part and shows the many different emotions that are going through her head.

I'm waiting for Before Midnight to come out so i can revisit Sunrise and Sunset, both for the second time. Can't wait.

February 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDerreck

Love SLP, warts and all. I enjoyed it when I saw it and it has only grown on me since... Russell's work on SLP is what you'd get if you let 80s Martin Scorsese direct a classic screwball comedy - that he actually makes that combo work is a miracle. I hope he wins Best Director.

February 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

I tend to rewatch films I really like often (comfort viewing?) and almost always find something new every time.

I get Jacki Weaver's nom. Its a nothing role. Basic sit com, second tier stock character as written, but she made it gold. There is so much more to her portrayal than is written on the page. Made me appreciate Animal Kingdom all that much more. I felt all the actors rose above the material and deserve the noms.

February 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

Oh, and as for rewatching - I grew up watching movies on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, over and over again. Its pretty much second nature at this point. If I'm not quite ready to go to bed, I start channel surfing, looking for a movie I like that I can drop in on for a little while. Just tonight I spent about a half hour jumping between four or five movies, each of which I've seen several times from start to finish.

The biggest first-to-second viewing turnaround I've ever had was with The Band Wagon, the Fred Astaire musical. The first time I saw it I was completely unimpressed, and obviously 100% dead wrong. The second time I saw it I loved it. I've seen a good dozen times since and its one of my favorite movies. Which is why that old Pauline Kael saw about never needing to see a movie a second time has always, on its face, struck me as being just flat out INSANE.

February 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

I rewatched Argo this week. Circumstance left me stranded in a mall for 6 hours and it seemed like the best option at the theatre there.

Definitely lost some of its impact which, I suppose, is only to be expected in a film that relies so much on tension. It did allow me to appreciate some great production design I'd missed on the first go though- particularly Ben Affleck's Tehran hotel room and the gorgeous leafy kitchen wallpaper and pitch-perfect paintings of the Canadian Ambassador's residence. I still like the film but the series of photos on the end credits that showed how close the film version was to the real version annoyed me a little considering all the flak Zero Dark Thirty got for claiming to be like real life.

But then I realised I could have been watching Playing for Keeps or Movie 43 instead and my problems with Argo seemed quite minor.

February 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSVG

I enjoyed the movie even on a first viewing, dug all of the performances (Weaver's included) but nonetheless it left a bitter aftertaste for two reasons:
a) enough with the manic pixie dreamgirls already
b) I'm gonna tell all the bipolar patients I deal with at work that all they really need to do is fall in love and their illness will be totally sorted out

I don't think these are the kind of things I could get past even with multiple repeat viewings

February 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commentergoran

Weaver's nom is truly deserved and is a true supporting role. It's a real and layered part beautifully rendered and fulfilling expertly the emotional integrity of her character and her role in the film. It is generous work. Expert work. So often we hear the complaints about how many so called supporting roles are in fact leads disguised in this category. With Weaver's performance we have a true supporting part that so many are dissing because it lacks "the scene". That, to my mind, is totally missing the point of this performance and indeed, this category.

February 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJKD

I had a similar experience with The Deep Blue Sea. A first I thought it was boring, too stage-y while Weisz was serviceable. I rewatched it after she won NYFCC and the film shot up to my top ten (it ended up at #11) while Weisz gives my favorite performance of the year.

February 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMYS

Every awards season I find a wtf moment referring to a movie or a performance. SLP is that one this year. Even though enjoyable when watching it, I don't get the love for this movie, and the comparisons with screwball classics are just a big No.

February 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteriggy

JKD i agree we have become so used to leads disguising themselves as supporting or supporting roles with one gr8 big meaty scene that we have forgot what actressing at the edges can be,wonder what stinkylulu would think.

February 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermark

Far from Heaven sticks out as a movie that benefitted from a second viewing when I was a little older and had more of an understanding of what Haynes was doing (as opposed to being the twenty-year-old twerp who would dub it Far from Over.)

February 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

Still can't stand this movie. Mental illness isn't funny. Just ask my bipolar brother.

February 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnton

When I first saw it, this film was hard for me to get into because I'm so familiar with the area it's based in and it brought up some weird memories of the people and places I wanted to get the hell away from.

But, on second viewing, I was able to appreciate the performances more, and was more certain that ever than Jennifer Lawrence deserves her Oscar for a truly raw, unpredictable performance. DeNiro also blew me away, but I don't know if Oscar voters still respect him enough after years of settling for a paycheck.

February 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBia

I saw Zero Dark Thirty the second time mainly because after all of the think pieces that ranged all over the place, I honestly wanted to know if I missed **something** that could lead to the criticisms that it is pro-torture propaganda the first time (from the opening torture scenes where I see a close-up of a detainee in tears, the accusations really lost a potency). I also wanted to see it with my parents, saw it alone the first time, because I was curious about their reaction (my father had read those same think pieces too and had more of a guard up to criticize the film than I did). Seeing it a second time, I actually came even more on the side of the filmmakers and defenders. My dad did too, having a hard time believing that anybody could say that it was at the most objectively ambiguous with its depiction of torture and as a veteran really admired the accuracy of the movement in the raid. I also appreciated Jason Clarke's performance as Dan much more and feel like his trajectory is key especially juxtaposed to Maya. The first viewing I just considered him a sadist who eerily settled into his CIA desk job a little too well. He still is that, mind you. But the second time I saw more of the exhausted, tired person who needed to save his humanity and provides one of the few instances Maya responds to in facing any level of self-reflection when he tells her it is best they not be so directly involved in the detainee program anymore. The switch in roles seems obvious but it heightens that compared to her peers that Maya moves down a trajectory that makes even the idea she is relatable or a normal person seem even more dubious.

Also the tension of the raid really does hold up. And I know people also criticize the ending of Jennifer Ehle's character but to me it was something that was a sequence not playing by the rules of tension in cinema and gave an example of what can go very wrong with having a hunch, and being so sure about it that you cannot see the potential problems right in front of you, that gave reason for many people in the CIA to be skeptical of Maya's hunch. So the second viewing made me even more of a partisan for ZD30.

My mother also thought it was ambiguous but over time has sort come to the 'it seems all too soon', feels a little uneasy about seeing it ever again and yet, is constantly reading pieces about the details of the film and the accuracies that are being questioned that do not even have to do with the portrayal of torture. I have to say, she has never read that much on the region and the war before the film.

February 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

Goran - I've read your second complaint a lot, and it always surprises, because that's not what happens in the movie, or certainly didn't seem that way to me. He doesn't just fall in love and have his illness "sorted out." He has a violent episode with his family and realizes he actually does have a problem (something he's been in denial about until then) and decides to go back on medication, which he has refused to take until that point. It's only after that that he starts to get his life sorted out. I don't have much experience with people with mental illness, so perhaps even this is a massive oversimplification? But it seemed pretty clear to me that the movie was "saying" that it was the meds, not just the manic pixie dream girl, that allowed Pat to stabilize and move on with his life.

February 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

I saw "Howard's End" when I was a teenager and hated it so much I nearly didn't finish it. My sister told me she recently saw "Howard's End" for the first time and she said she loved it -- "so much better than 'Where Angels Fear to Tread'" (which I liked). It makes me curious to see if I would like "Howard" better now that I'm an adult.

Anyone agree or disagree? Should I give it another whack?

February 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCash

Jacki Weaver's nomination was mentioned on the Oscar reaction podcast. People saw her before and recognized from Animal Kingdom in a very different role. It shows range. It is a bit like how AMPAS members see Jessica Chastain (I am a champion and defender of that performance but I know others on here disagree) in roles that range from Celia Foote to Mrs. O'Brien in Tree of Life to Samantha in Take Shelter (I felt like her nod for The Help itself was also a pick based on the most mainstream role that could have gone to a few other, different performances she gave) and with the role of Maya the AMPAS members see range and admire it.

February 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

Goran, on your second point, I think you completely misinterpreted the movie if that's what you think. In no way was Pat or Tiffany cured for having fallen in love, but the movie is just suggesting that they can't be miserable all the time because of their illness. They have to try to live their lives as the happiest versions of themselves they can be. It will be a constant struggle, but with each other and their families, it will maybe just be a little bit easier. They have to find that "silver lining." I think what's so brilliant about it is that it can speak for literally almost every person. Everyone has something that they struggle with, regret, deal with, etc., but it shouldn't define your life. We all deserve to find that silver lining, and in our own manic ways, be happy. I really enjoyed Silver Linings on my first viewing, and I started to like it more and more as time went on. I saw it for a second time, and I loved it. It jumped up to my second favorite of the year. (Beasts of the Southern Wild). I would honestly be fine with any of its nominations winning on Oscar night. And I loved the Jacki Weaver nomination! I think this is one that will age very well in years to come.

February 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

All I know is, please don't make me re-watch The Master. That, I could not take.

February 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Please, just don't make me re-watch The Master. That, I just could not take.

February 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Cash, definitely give Howards End another whirl. Granted, I am someone who adored it as a teenager in the cinema from the get-go, but I also think it ages well. I'm a devotee of E.M. Forster's novels and truly feel it's the best adaptation put to film. There is magic when Merchant, Ivory, and Jhabvala collaborate. Where Angels Fear to Tread is totally underrated, but Howards End is simply a perfect film. One of my comfort foods, always.

February 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJesse

For the record: THERE IS NO APOSTROPHE in Howards End.

But to the question: My top two films of all-time -- The Thin Red Line and McCabe and Mrs. Miller -- knocked my socks only after second viewing. After their respective first viewings, I found myself profoundly intrigued, but baffled -- and certainly feeling no love.

March 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJason Cooper

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