Blog Directory CineVerse: Taking a page from Pat's "Playbook"

Taking a page from Pat's "Playbook"

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Let's face it: Romcoms often come with a lot of baggage, be it expectations for a storybook romance, desires for female wish fulfillment, or preconceived notions of sexy thespians flirting and bed-hopping. But "Silver Linings Playbook" doesn't exactly play by the book that romantic comedy fans know by heart. Here's what distinguishes this picture above many of its predecessors:

WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF A TYPICAL ROMCOM (ROMANTIC COMEDY)?
·       They almost always demand a happy ending that is almost always delivered; in this sense, they are predictable, schmaltzy, implausible and derivative.
·       They usually involve the meeting of two people who are mutually attracted but who each have personal problems that impede them from fostering a healthy relationship; there are often a series of misunderstandings, bad choices and mistakes that help them improve and develop, and which bring them together by the end of the movie.
·       Romcoms almost always cast attractive, likable actors, and this is no exception.

HOW IS SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK DIFFERENT AND UNEXPECTED, PARTICULARLY AS A ROMANTIC COMEDY?
·       It shifts in tonality and mood throughout the picture: you see moments of comedy, violence, tenderness, darkness, and more.
·       It brings the decidedly sobering topic of mental illness into the romcom formula, which is a risky proposition that can derail lesser pictures into maudlin, over-generalized clich√© approaches to psychiatric problems in characters.
·       Salon critic Andrew O’Hehir summarized it nicely: “It’s a rom-com that succeeds in revitalizing that discredited genre where so many others have failed, injecting it with the grit and emotion of realist drama rather than with amped-up whimsy or social satire or montages of people walking on the beach while whiny emo-pop plays on the soundtrack. As he did with the boxing movie in “The Fighter,” Russell proves that you can breathe new life into one of the hoariest forms in the Hollywood lexicon. He takes a movie where everyone in the audience knows how it will end and makes us suspend our disbelief and fall in love all over again.”
·       It’s not overly cute, sentimental or completely predictable like many romcoms.
·       It casts two increasingly popular actors in roles that challenge their typecasting: Bradley Cooper often plays pretty boy characters and in gross out comedies; Jennifer Lawrence has demonstrated more range, but we see a different, more diversified side of her here.
·       Interestingly, many of the characters in this picture have mental challenges: Pat and Tiffany suffer from bipolar disorder; Pat’s dad has OCD and anger issues; Ronnie thinks about suicide, etc.
·       It does a good job of depicting a family near its breaking point and of portraying flawed characters who each seem to have a hangup or disorder.
·       This film turns the gender dynamics around; instead of the man pursuing the woman, it’s the other way around: Tiffany likes Pat and aggressively pursues him.

DOES THIS FILM DO A DISSERVICE TO VIEWERS IN ITS DEPICTION OF MENTAL ILLNESS?
·       This movie has been criticized as whitewashing the issue of a challenging mental issue like bipolar disorder, suggesting perhaps the conservative, faith-based view that mental illness can be managed or overcome through sheer force of will (Pat’s initial attitude). However, we see that he finally does take his medications and sticks to them, and that by the end of the film he’s more balanced and in control of his illness.
·       Psychologists have also complained that the movie wraps up too neatly all the loose ends, insinuating that a dance contest and mutual love can overcome psychological disorders.
·       On the other hand, Dr. Skip Dine Young wrote: “The reason that Silver Linings Playbook is nominated for an Academy Award is not because of its innovative narrative but because of its unusual characters placed in an otherwise clich√© narrative. The typical flaw of a rom-com hero is that he is “afraid of commitment” while the heroine is often “too needy.” In this movie, we have a hero who nearly killed a man and a heroine who had sex with everyone in her workplace. These behaviors are a challenge to the comfortable identification that often accompanies “normal” flaws. The movie’s primary virtue lies in how it manages to include such atypical characters in the hopeful dreams of the romantic comedy tradition.”

OTHER MOVIES THAT COME TO MIND AFTER VIEWING “SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK”
·       As Good As It Gets
·       Dirty Dancing
·       Friday Night Lights
·       Benny and Joon

OTHER FILMS DIRECTED BY DAVID O. RUSSELL
·       Three Kings
·       I Heart Huckabees
·       The Fighter
·       American Hustle

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