MeekinOnMovies’ Date Movie Diatribe #1: Silver Linings Playbook

The
date movie. We’ve all been here. Be it a night out with your wife or
hubby, a first date with someone you met online, or simply something you
enjoy doing with your boyfriend or girlfriend, oftentimes seeing the
right kind of movie can enhance your romantic endeavors for the evening,
and seeing the wrong kind of movie can damn them completely. Some
movies are romance neutral. I don’t think anyone seeing “Parker” is
going to come out of that movie questioning the very fabric of their
lives, for example. But, some are profound. In a series of articles
highlighting the good date movies, the bad date movies, and the kind of
date movies you should really only watch after a couple of tequila
shots, I intend to provide you with a primer. These will be broken down
into three categories: 

The Flick: The movie, is it good, what makes it good 

The Chick: Who is this movie right for? Couples? First Dates? What does it mean if your date doesn’t like the movie? 

The Stichk: What
are some pull-aways from the movie. Conversation topics, recommendations
for other movies you may enjoy as a couple if you enjoyed this one, and
so on.

So, here goes!


The Flick:

Typically,
David O. Russell has been romance neutral. While a phenomenally
talented (and infamously hot-headed) director, there’s really nothing in
“Three Kings” or “The Fighter” or “I <3 Huckabees” that would lead a
couple to seriously ponder their romantic predicaments. This, alas, is
not the case in his new film “Silver Linings Playbook” a romantic
not-quite-comedy about mental illness, family, and the Philadelphia
Eagles. 

            

Silver Linings Playbook
Director: David O. Russell
Runtime: 122 minutes

After
being admitted for violently beating a man he caught in the shower with
his wife, the high-strung Pat (Bradley Cooper) is discharged from a
mental hospital after his parents agree to take him in and keep an eye
on him. Following his incarceration, Pat appears to be a changed man –
he’s working out religiously, and reading classic novels regularly, too –
the problem being that all this positive energy comes from the
misguided notion that he could win his wife back if he was just a little
stronger, and it turns out all those books he’s been reading are ones
that appear on the syllabus his wife made for the English class she
teaches. It turns out Pat is fairly obsessed with his wife, and despite a
restraining order, is intent on seeing her again. Pat brings her up
consistently throughout the course of the movie’s first two acts,
delusionally believing that if he could *just* talk to her, he’d be able
to explain everything.     

The
fact is Pat is mentally ill, and refuses any sort of medication –
leading to a variety of incidents with his family, psychiatrist, and
former co-workers. On top of this, Pat is somewhat of a pariah in his
own town, as the community is very well aware of his horrifically
violent outburst and trip to the loony bin. Following a dramatic
outburst over the inability to find his wedding video, he’s forced to
start taking his medication. But crazy doesn’t stop with Pat and
Tiffany. Pat’s Dad (Robert DeNiro) is his own kind of high strung and
obsessive, particularly about the Philadelphia Eagles (and betting on
them), going as far as to arrange the remotes a certain way on the
table, and consistently clutch what appears to be a decades old Eagles
hanky.   

Eventually Pat runs into widower Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), and they inadvertently bond over all the various medications they’d been put on (and hated) throughout the years.
Lawrence and Cooper have great chemistry, and you root for them right
off the bat.  Lawrence is a real gem, playing Tiffany as a disaffected,
sexy, totally-lacking-in-social-filter, but still very obviously damaged
kind of gal – the sort of woman an Everclear song would pine over.
Cooper’s Pat is unsettlingly high-strung, and despite the strong
bravado, has a very dangerous self-hate bubbling under the surface about
the very horrible things that happened to him, and what they caused him
to do. These characters click like lego bricks. Pat, deliberately
chaste and obsessed with his wife, initially looks at Tiffany like the
dorky girl down the block – annoying, nagging, and bothersome, whereas
Tiffany, a sex-addict, finds herself intrigued by the only straight man
on the planet that doesn’t want to sleep with her. Which is partially
true. A particularly pivotal scene in a diner during a not-quite-date
between the two eventually degrades into Pat living vicariously through
Tiffany’s sexual exploits, then feeling immensely guilty after realizing
he’s allowed himself such lustful thoughts about a woman that’s not his
wife.

Director
David O. Russell has a knack for demanding perfection from his
performers, and it may actually be working against him because it almost
seems *too* easy. Despite the big names in the movie, you ultimately
forget that Bradley Cooper is Pat and Jennifer Lawrence is Tiffany. For
the time they’re on screen, they become real people, with real problems,
and real depth. They turn performances that are instantly immersive and
captivating, but not showy, and as a result you may not notice how
triumphant they really are. Part of the joy of “Silver Linings Playbook”
is how both Lawrence and Cooper work very hard to slowly let their
character’s guard down, as they come to trust each other and just
possibly learn to function as relatively normal human beings again. To
be fair,  DeNiro is always DeNiro, but that’s more the fault of his
incredible legacy than anything else.

Thanks
in part to the performances and a stellar script, “Silver Linings
Playbook” is incredibly funny in a natural way. A lot of uncomfortable
humor is extracted from the obsession Pat has with his estranged wife,
and with the initial antagonistic relationship with Tiffany. There’s a
sequence toward the end of the film at a Philadelphia Eagles tailgate
that is simultaneously hilarious – and heartbreaking.

 
In
the end, “Silver Linings Playbook” is, well, hilarious, heartbreaking,
and ultimately uplifting. Lets face it: we’re all crazy. We all have our
idiosyncrasies, obsessions, skeletons in the closet, shameful memories,
and regrettable choices. These issues can be paralyzing, preventing us
from reaching out to make a connection with someone who may just be, if
not the cure, the salve, for what ails you. It’s rare a movie tackles
such serious subject matter without a smidge of heavy handedness,
unintended camp, or actions that ring in-authentic to the characters in
the film. You may not notice it at first, but “Silver Linings Playbook”
is a great movie, regardless of the company you may or may not keep.

The Chick:

If
you’re bringing a girl you’re fixing to romance to this movie – make
sure she’s interested in *you*. There’s nothing worse than taking a girl
to the kind of movie that makes your mind wander to the lost romances
of your life, and finding out your date still isn’t quite over her
breakup from Tommy who works at the Starbucks. Thankfully, if she digs
you, there is a lot to be sappy over in this movie. On more than one
occasion you’ll very likely hear sniffles and “awww”s from the audience
during the movie’s tender moments, that are like music to the romantic’s
ears. Take note of when your date makes these noises, and try to use
them to your advantage for strategic hand-holding and
arm-around-shouldering – certainly the key to any successful movie-date.
Similarly, you’ll be able to gauge your potential mate’s penchant for
intelligent movie-going by her engagement. While compelling, funny,
human, and enthralling, “Silver Linings Playbook” isn’t very exciting.
If you look over to find the harsh white glow of a cell-phone, you may
want to bail out on any potential relationship.

“Silver
Linings Playbook” is ultimately a great first date movie for a few
reasons. It’s touching, romantic, celebrates love and family – and it’s
sexy too. While certainly more than eye candy, Bradley Cooper and
Jennifer Lawrence are incredibly attractive people, and certain scenes
in the flick feature palpable romantic chemistry that may very well get
your libedo beating faster than the drums in a White Stripes song.  

While
I’m not a doctor or even in a relationship, I worry if perhaps that if
viewed in the wrong light, this movie could be potentially damaging for
mid-to-long-term couples and married folks. Especially if there has ever
been infidelity or a tendency for bursts of anger or violence on the
part of either mate (TAMMY SYNCH FOR EXAMPLE!). “Silver Linings Playbook” hammers home the fact
that we’re all crazy, and that love can and will conquer all, if not
most. The problem is that while the movie is very natural and
believable, watching it with someone who you know to be unfaithful could
rend an incredibly painful experience for both parties.

Also,
often times relationships that are emotionally abusive find themselves
in a situation kind of similar to what “Silver Linings Playbook”
presents toward the end of the film. Bradley Cooper’s Pat is violent,
and crazy, and is ultimately saved, in a sense, by Jennifer Lawrence’s
Tiffany. That whole “We’re both crazy, baby” kind of mentality is what
allows an insecure gal to stay with her boyfriend through his
semi-regular fits of anger that may very well land the family cat in the
E.R. – and if taken in the wrong light could reinforce a person’s
commitment to making a poisoned relationship work.

But,
if you’re happy and married, or headed down that road, well, you can’t
do much better than “Silver Linings” Playbook. While sexy, it’s not
deliberately misogynistic, and there aren’t really any shots or
sequences in the film that exist solely to show off the sexy bods of
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence – which some movies are wont to do,
and there’s enough comedy, romance, humor, and sports talk to satisfy
even the most cynical of men.   

The Schtick:

There’s
a lot you can talk about coming out of “Silver Linings Playbook” the
first topic which may very well be “That got nominated for a bunch of
Oscars?”. It’s true, “Silver Lining’s Playbook” is up for 8 Academy
Awards, including Best Picture. As mentioned above, the movie has a
habit of making it look easy, to the point where you may not even
realize how great the movie really is. Really very few films are capable
of balancing the subject matter of obsession, mental illness,
competitive dance, romance, family, and self-betterment in a way that
doesn’t come off ham-handed or just simply awful. A single wrong turn
would have derailed the entire shebang, and if you want an example, give
“Friends With Benefits” a watch and watch the entire film come crashing
to a screeching halt upon the introduction of a sub-plot involving
Alzheimer’s disease.

If
you’re looking to impress your date with your knowledge of the
cinema-scape, David O. Russell is probably one the best Directors to
read up on – and talk about. He’s notoriously difficult to work with.
You could mention how the guy got into a fist fight with George Clooney
on the set of “Three Kings”, or about the viral video that features an
tirade of epic proportions toward Lily Tomlin on the set of “I
Guys,
also be prepared to talk about “Hunger Games”. Sorry fellas, there’s no
way you’re getting out of it. If you haven’t seen it, “Hunger Games” is
a movie about a bunch of teenagers who compete in a brutal fight to the
death in order to win fabulous cash and prizes. It’s actually pretty
awesome – though I think girls are in it for the empowerment, love
triangle, and crazy futuristic fashion (Psh, wearing real burning flames
after Labor Day? That’s so 2029). While the movie featuring Jennifer
Lawrence was middling at best, there were highlights, and if you want to
sound like a movie buff, talk about how great Stanley Tucci was in the
flick and that you think Josh Hutcherson was an insufferable cad.  

Girls,
get ready to talk about “The Hangover” and get ready for drunken
college stories from your date. Bradley Cooper made a name for himself
in both “The Hangover” and “The Hangover Part II”, and while you
completely forget it’s the same guy during the course of “SIlver Linings
Playbook” inevitably some time after you leave the theater, your beau
(or potential beau) will talk about how “Epic” those movies are and very
likely relate them to some surely exaggerated debauchery from his own
life. A key thing to look out for here is that you very much want to
hear him say that the first one was better than the second – this is a
universally accepted truth. If not, well, you may have yourself a man
with bland tastes.

If
you and your date thoroughly enjoyed “Silver Linings Playbook” and
you’re looking for another movie to watch, but don’t feel like diving
into David O. Russell’s back catalog, “Bridesmaids” pairs delightfully
well with “Silver Linings Playbook”. Both films, while on appearing on
the surface to be romantic comedies, are quite a bit deeper than you’d
initially give them credit for. “Bridesmaids” trends closer to being a
flat-out farcical comedy, but both films subtextually fixate on
accountability and taking responsibility in their own slightly slanted
ways. “Silver Linings Playbook” takes a messier approach; by the end no
one is “cured”, and surely the ghosts of past transgressions will haunt
the characters even after the happy ending. “Bridesmaids” seems to have a
weird AA undercurrent going throughout the film, with Kristen Wiig’s
character being a self-blaming not-quite-sad-sack throughout the film
until she learns to respect herself and take responsibility for her life
and actions – Salvation is only for those who help themselves, and
such.

But
the main reason for watching “Bridesmaids” after “Silver Linings
Playbook” is that the one-two punch of Cooper and Lawrence’s chemistry
and Kristen Wiig and Chris O’Dowd’s adorable courtship is simply too
authentically romantic to resist. If you and your date make it all the
way through both movies, and no-ones made a first move, either play
two-person “Spin The Bottle” or call the whole thing off because the
sparks simply aren’t there.
There’s
a lot to pull from “Silver Linings Playbook” and if you feel like
talking about the movie and seeing where the conversation could take
you, there’s obviously quite a lot you can discuss, or expect to discuss
as you can see above. But like good movies, good dates can sometimes
wash over you, a cavalcade of sights and smells and sounds and moments
that form together into a distinct mood, and leave an impression on your
psyche that’s everlasting. If that’s the case, I hope I helped.

Paul Meekin is a writer, producer, editor, and all around nice guy. You can like him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter  and check out his other writing at Hollywood Chicago  and Starpulse.com 

(those are all click-able links by the way)  

(Editors
Note: Above is a preview of a column I’m going to be writing for
starpulse.com that’s going to be posted this coming Saturday morning. My
editor seems a bit…trepidations about the length and content of such a
series, but I think a little movie-dating advice could do wonders for
the awkwardly single (not making a joke about WWE fans here), married,
and those inbetween. So, if you like it, feel free to comment below, and
hit up Starpulse.com on Saturday and comment on it when it goes up!)