You people are sick

18 11 2012

By Kleinz 57

I don’t mean to brag, but The Mime just got wayyy more legit. Last week, I got an exclusive sneak peep for a movie that 90% of America doesn’t even get the chance to see until this week. Thass right. Advanced screening. I’d like to say I finally suckered someone into giving me a Media Access pass but like President Rutherford B. Hayes, ‘I cannot tell a lie.’ Thanks, Gofobo.

If you’ve seen 2010’s very solid The Fighter, you’re pretty much prepped for Silver Linings Playbook already. All of David O’Russell’s apparent obsessions are in order here: dysfunctional family dynamics; watered down inspirational stories; drug addiction; peppy poppy horn cuts. O’Russell’s also got a thing for factory backbone northeast towns, too, shifting his Coastal Boner from Mickey Ward’s Lowell, Mass. to Bradley Cooper’s Pat Salotano and North Philly. To say Cooper has a few social quirks is a massive understatement. Having just left an intense therapy center, Cooper moves back in with the ‘rents and looks to get his life back on track. Of course, it might be a little awkward to reconnect with his now estranged wife, whose cheating ways caused Cooper to lose his shit and beat the living crap out of her lover. Not to mention Cooper’s idiosyncratic father (Robert De Niro) has more than a few mental issues as well, and his pushover mother (Jacki Weaver) does very little to keep the peace. Shit gets even more complicated when Cooper meets up-and-coming smokeshow Jennifer Lawrence, who, let’s just say, has some problems of her own.

Are we seeing a pattern yet? I’m of the mind that the term ‘zany’ should used about as much as zesty (so never), but it’s an apt description of Russell’s strange crazy brew here. Comedic with a visual language that explodes and pisses all over itself (in a good way), Silver Linings is lighter in tone (and funnier) than something like The Fighter and Three Kings, and the schizo camera work in here is top notch. There’s also a ton of dramatic heft, anchored mainly by Bradley Cooper’s sporadic outbursts and his struggle to not beat the crap out of his overbearing father. And in the film’s biggest spoiler, Robert De Niro is quite excellent in a role that doesn’t see him phone it the fuck in, breaking a 12 year streak of stupid ‘just gimme the cash’ performance (see Meet the Parents for a reference point). Jennifer Lawrence also proves she’s got the chops to be much more than this decade’s booby Kristen Stewart, but she doesn’t quite nail all her bitchy moments. Oh and Chris Tucker is solidly hilarious as a fellow patient Cooper befriends in therapy; it’s truly great to see a talented man doing more than scream Lee! Goddamn, Lee! Put dat gun dooooown! 

Having said that, I do have some thoughts. You’re never quite sure if and when Cooper is taking the meds he’s prescribed, even though Russell frequents the witty Indian therapist all the same. Similarly, there’s little probing of what is clearly a very fucked up home life. Jacki Weaver, initially in the pitiable position of keeping her husband and son from kicking each other’s asses, also largely ignores the seeds of the problem — she moves from victim to enabler quickly, but she gets off the hook with too much ease. And for so much emotional complexity, it seems like The Silver Linings Playbook really only has one play, the ‘Resolve Every Family Issue With a Single Gambit” — so probably some variation of an end reverse.

Even so, the climax is a brilliant golden moment of underachievement. To spoil little, those emotionally damaged, psychologically deranged people we’ve gotten to know over a two hour period explode with happiness in the most mediocre of resolutions. It’s sad and touching and pathetic and honestly, a little genius. The onlookers see an unbalanced group of weirdos, and quite rightly. But like our own alcoholic uncles, the ones who pound 15 Hamms and lose their pants every Thanksgiving, we can’t help but love them.

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