"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Silver Linings Playbook

The Regular Wife and I went to see David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook last night, with Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro, Chris Tucker and Jacki Weaver.   (I mention the last name because, although she may not be well known, she is wonderful as the mother of the main character, a young man with bipolar disorder.)   It is a  tremendously funny, unpredictable, idiosyncratic, beautiful, romantic movie, with great performances by Cooper and DeNiro as a volatile father and son, Tucker as a manic friend from the psychiatric hospital, and a great, great, great, sexy, sexy, sexy performance by Jennifer Lawrence (from Hunger Games) as Cooper's ultimate soulmate and dance partner.  

So far I've only seen three of the movies nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture:  this one, Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, and Ben Affleck's Argo.   Lincoln is a highly competent movie (as you'd expect from Spielberg) about characters that are very well-known already, and a story that is obviously predictable, because we know the history.   It was OK, but I never got past thinking... wow, that Daniel Day-Lewis is a really talented actor, and he's really acting up a storm up there, and boy, he almost looks like Lincoln!   Argo, meanwhile,  is a highly competent movie about an historical event that is not well-known and therefore not entirely predictable -- although we assume that the American diplomats hiding out in Iran will ultimately escape -- so to me it worked better than Lincoln as a movie.   But there are no indelible characters, characters we follow and root for with any intensity.   It's an interesting movie, and very well-made (Affleck has become a terrific director), but not one you would necessarily want to see again.  

Silver Linings Playbook is on a different level.   The movies that we really respond to on an emotional level -- the movies that we'll want to see again in ten years, or twenty, or fifty -- are the movies that create characters we haven't met before, magnetic characters we follow through the movie with an intense interest, wanting them to be happy, to overcome their obstacles, to fall in love and to have their love returned by the right person.   Silver Linings Playbook is that kind of movie.   We walked out of the movie in a pack with the people who had seen it, and everyone was happy, smiling, laughing, couples were holding hands and hugging.   It's a feel-good movie in the sense that it literally makes you feel good.  

It probably won't win the Academy Award.   I predict Lincoln will.   The Academy tends to skew toward costume dramas and supposedly "deep" or "historical" movies.   Gandhi, The Last Emperor, Out of Africa, etc.   You get the picture.   But I don't think anyone outside of a high school history class will be watching Spielberg's Lincoln in 50 years, while Silver Linings Playbook is one I would want to see again every year around Christmas, just to feel good again.

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