A review of Silver Linings Playbook

I wanted to watch this film since I saw its trailer in 2012, and Jennifer Lawrence’s Oscar win only spurred me on. As a fan of her work (and personality), I was eager to watch it, and was conveniently studying for examinations, so obviously I HAD to catch it.

I thought the film was brilliant. Throughout the whole thing, I felt like I was watching a very personal journey someone was taking, and that I had accidentally stumbled onto a real person’s life. I like the incisive spotlight on mental illness, and how the film never ended up caricaturing it or exploiting it for gratuitous emotion. It was just about someone getting back on his feet and having a flawed but supportive family, and finding new family.

I really love the idea of working hard for your silver linings—not finding them, not stumbling onto them, not suddenly noticing them, but trying and trying and doing your best and putting your best foot forward and constantly striving to be a better person, and then, and then maybe, you get a shot at a silver lining.

This was essentially what Bradley Cooper’s character Pat was trying to do the entire movie, and I really appreciated that. It felt like the major thing I could take away from his character was how much he was trying and how genuinely sorry he was that he hurt people, instead of the movie going: oh, look how screwed up he is, sympathise please!

The idea that Pat had some personal issues, and that he found a companion in Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence’s character) and made himself better because of it, is definitely not a new one. In fact, this girl coming to help the male protagonist to get out of his funk trope is one that has been used so often in recent media, (and in a lot of my favourite films, actually) and can be so problematic.

This trope is described best by Feminist Frequency as the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, who enters the male protagonist’s life to help him get better, without any true life or goal of her own. The girl is often put on a kind of fantastical pedestal, and is admired and longed for by the protagonist, and she usually presents herself as a mystery, but when it comes down to it, lacks any true characterisation. This is a new kind of objectification, as John Green points out, and is a fantasy that so many of us (including myself) are into.

Yet, I think the great thing about Silver Linings Playbook is that Tiffany is as real and screwed up as Pat is. She was always allowed to be her own person in the movie, and depictions of her were not simply couched in relation to how much she could help him and make his life better. She had her own things going on, she had her own contradictory emotions, and she was given the license to do what she wants, help Pat, or not help Pat. Her character did not solely exist for his, and I thought it very clear in how it was by his integrating into her lifestyle, and by his independently appreciating the merits of dance that he got better and better.

I truly appreciate the core messages the movie was trying to deliver, and love the off-hand humour and well-acted familial situations. Real kudos to Robert de Niro, who is and always will be simply magnificent, and Bradley Cooper, whom I’ve loved since Alias, and am super glad for that he’s broke out of his Hollywood typecast.

And, of course, Jennifer Lawrence’s performance was pretty awesome. I think the best thing about JLaw is that she always brings a kind of believability to her characters, and you truly believe in their existence, and their motivations. You don’t notice her acting, at all. I would say that I don’t think the range afforded her such good material that she should have won the Oscar, though. She’s a good actress, but maybe not shown off so well in this movie that it was Oscar-worthy.

But, all in all, SLP, good on ya! Definitely worth a watch (and re-watch!)

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