tek's rating: ¼

Silver Linings Playbook (R)
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Caution: potential spoilers.

This is one of those movies for which I was quite sure where to put my review. It's sort of a romantic comedy, and while I enjoyed the romance to a fair degree, I didn't find it quite romantic enough to put it under the "romantic" category. And while it was reasonably amusing, I don't consider it comedic enough to put under "serio-comedy" (let alone just plain "comedy"). It's kind of quirky, but not enough to put it in that category. So I decided to go with "drama," though that's just the category I'm least uncomfortable with, I guess. However, I later moved it to "mental health." Anyway... it's based on a book I haven't read. I should say that when the movie came out in 2012, I read plenty of positive things about it, so I was eager to see it, sooner or later. And I got around to it in 2014. I definitely liked it, but not quite as much as most people (including critics) generally seemed to, and I found it a bit hard to watch. It's kind of depressing and disturbing in some parts... well, in most parts... because the main character reminds me to some extent of myself. Or what I have the potential to become, I suppose. I mean that in a bad way... I have emotional issues which I don't think are as severe as the character's, but they could be, if I had less control than I do. On the other hand, things ultimately turn out better for him than I believe they ever will for me, so... watching the movie kind of put me in mind of the worst of both worlds, if you see what I mean.

Anyway, it begins with a man named Pat (Bradley Cooper) being released from a psychiatric hospital where he's spent the last 8 months, as part of a plea bargain. Apparently he's been dealing with emotional problems his whole life, without any help, without anyone particularly noticing he had a problem. I guess. Until he nearly beat a man to death when he caught his wife, Nikki, cheating on him with that man. Now, eight months later, Pat is living with his parents, and trying to put his life back together. Trying to stay positive (find silver linings), and make himself into a better person, so that Nikki will take him back. (We don't actually see Nikki, other than in a flashback, until near the end of the film, and then only briefly.) Meanwhile, we learn that Pat's issues may be inherited: his father, Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro), seems to have a low-level of OCD, as well as anger issues (he's banned from a sports stadium for having beat up a bunch of people). But now Pat Sr. just wants to spend time with Pat, mainly watching Eagles games. (He believes Pat is a good luck charm that will make the Eagles win, if he watches the games.) Oh, Pat also has an older brother, whom we don't see too much of. And he has a friend named Ronnie, whose wife Veronica (Julia Stiles) is friends with Nikki. And there's a therapist named Dr. Patel, with whom Pat is required to attend therapy sessions. And Pat has a friend named Danny, whom he met in the mental hospital, who shows up occasionally. And Pat's father has a friend named Randy, who is a fan of a rival football team. Part of the climax of the movie will involve a bet between him and Pat's father.

But mainly what the movie is about is Pat befriending a young woman named Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who is Veronica's younger sister (and as such, has occasional contact with Nikki, whom Pat isn't allowed to talk to because of a restraining order). Tiffany is a widow, and since her husband's death, she's had emotional issues of her own. So Pat and Tiffany begin to bond over that, though for most of the movie it's a rather rocky relationship. I got the sense that they could be both good and bad for each other, so it was hard for me to decide whether I really wanted to root for them to become a couple, even though that was obviously what the movie was leading toward. Anyway, she offers to get a letter to Nikki for him, and in exchange she wants him to become her dance partner in an upcoming competition. She's an okay dancer, but not a professional. Most of the competitors are professionals. And Pat has no experience at all, so he'll spend a lot of time practicing with Tiffany, in the hopes that if Nikki sees him help Tiffany in this way, it'll make her more willing to take him back. And naturally, the time he spends with Tiffany conflicts with his father's desire to spend time with him.

So... I dunno. I did say the emotional (and psychological) issues of Pat (and Tiffany) made the movie hard for me to watch, but it's also what made it interesting at all. It's what makes the movie different from a typical rom-com, but at the same time... there's a lot about the movie did seem quite typical to me, including a totally cliched and predictable ending. Still, there were things in it that I didn't find predictable. There was a realization Pat came to at one point that I had suspected from the moment the plot point was introduced, and which I realized conclusively a few minutes before Pat did. But when he made this realization, it was some time before I was sure how he'd react. I could have seen it going in a couple of very different ways. And while the way it did play out was the cliched ending, I'm glad it didn't go the other way. And I suppose throughout the movie (even the mostly cliched ending), the plot was just atypical enough to be enjoyable. So, I'm glad to have seen it, but I don't imagine I'll ever feel like watching it again.

Oh yeah, and I wanted to say that at one point in the movie, Pat got very upset by the ending of a Hemingway book, A Farewell to Arms (which I've never read). While watching the end credits, I started wondering if that scene had been meant as, like, a red herring, or something, hinting that the movie itself would have an unhappy ending. But of course by then it was too late for me to worry about it, since I already knew how it ended. (End credits, you know?) I almost wish I'd thought of that earlier, so I could have wondered if it was foreshadowing an unhappy ending, rather than knowing it wasn't. But... whatever.

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