Sunday, December 02, 2012

5 Snouts Up for Silver Linings Playbook

I love this movie but hate this poster
(:)(:)(:)(:)(:) for Silver Linings Playbook in theaters everywhere.  Listen, it's been almost a year since I issued a belated 5 snouts up for Black Swan which I only saw on DVD.  I think this is the first time I have seen a 5 snouts movie in a theater since American Beauty (which I loved so much I turned around, walked in and saw it again).  The fifth snout is reserved for films that are in the category of best films of all time: amazing writing, amazing directing, amazing acting and enduring story.

This movie shattered all my expectations and meets those criteria.  On the surface (and how it's marketed) is as an intense rom-com. In a way this is true.  It is romantic.  It is funny.  It is intense.  There are ways in which it follows the rom-com formula.  Yet, the characters played by Bradley (Hangover) Cooper and Jennifer (Hunger Games) Lawrence are an order of magnitude more interesting than any you'd find in a traditional romantic comedy.  Their performances are so stellar, and the movie has so much more intensity, craziness and angst than others, that you have to think of it as just a genre unto itself.

Because the characters they play are fucking crazy (like, literally), there's a part of me that feels that they shouldn't be so unbelievably gorgeous.  I tend to really hate the American movie industry's need to have every single romantic lead be from the same planet of unreal beings with perfect facial features and piercing eyes.  Yet, Lawrence (we knew) and Cooper  (who knew?) are such gifted actors that you forgive them their looks and then cycle back and fall in love with them in spite and because of how gorgeous they are.

The screenplay is breathtakingly well-written.  Somehow every phrase seems acutely observed and staggeringly articulate at the same time.  The casting is impeccable.  Not just the leads, but the secondary characters are complete gems.  Robert DeNiro as Cooper's father gives his best performance in years--I'd be disappointed if he didn't get a nomination for best supporting actor.  And everyone else too, the best friend, the therapist, the mother--wonderful!

My final word in my over-the-top rave about this movie is that its existence as a mainstream Hollywood pic signals that we're well into a new era of story-telling in America: honesty.  In the past few decades, the heroes of stories were usually relatively close to perfect.  Whatever flaws those people had were minor and perhaps perfectionistic (think of Meg Ryan's character Sally in When Harry Met Sally--she's quirky and weird because she orders her salad dressing on the side, or Bill Murray in Groundhog Day who starts out as shallow).

Without giving anything away, Silver Linings gives us heroes whose foibles go far beyond salad dressing and ego, yet we root for them and adore them.  This follows on a trend perhaps started by the edgier television shows such as the Sopranos or Breaking Bad where we come to love (as we wince) at  killers and drug dealers.  In Silver Linings, the shadow of America's families, the sister and brother we don't talk about, breaks through into the spotlight of love and we are all better for it.

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