Silver Linings Playbook Review

(MAJOR SPOILERS)

 

How does this film get away with so many problems?  The main character makes stupid decisions and obsesses over a game in which I have no interest.  One of the main turning points is meant to be a surprise, even though it is rather predictable.  The movie suddenly shifts point of view in the third act, making the ending confusing.  While on the subject of the ending, it’s very cliché, with the male lead running down the streets to make up for the sadness he brought her, and then read her a letter confessing his love for her.  Oh, and writers are advised not to overuse profanity as it is generally used for shock value to cover up a lack of genuinely interesting content.  So why do I adore this movie?

It all boils down to a great high concept that was executed with strong characters and very effective storytelling.

The “high concept,” also known as the strange attractor, is the basic concept of the film summed up in a sentence or two, which has a unique, compelling intrigue.  This film had me with the description on Netflix, which does not always do a good job when it comes to describing the film, since it rarely gives viewers the high concept or log line as it probably should.  However, read this one: “After a stint in a mental hospital, Pat moves in with his parents and tries to win back his wife, until he meets a woman who’s as unstable as he is.”  So, so, so compelling and intriguing.

However, it only works if the characters are interesting, and I think I was interested in the main character, Pat, right away.  I understand exactly what it’s like to obsess over people and things that I should just forget about, and I was totally with him when he woke up his parents to rant about the book he just read.  (For me, it’s a bad film, or a mostly great film with a bad ending, that makes me just about scream and punch the wall sometimes.)  Somewhere in the middle of the movie, I get kind of tired of him making stupid decisions like going to the Eagles game, and I start to get annoyed with the character from whose perspective I am supposed to be seeing the story, which is a big problem.  But, by that point, Tiffany is a big presence in the film, and between the writing and the performance, I found her to be the more interesting character anyway.  At the end of the day, she is the character with whom I empathize, and she is the one I want to see happy more than anyone else.  This, I think, is why I did not mind it too much when the movie shifted to her perspective – I was more interested in her perspective before the shift occurred.

Now that we are on the subject of story structure, I think that the story is well-built.  There were a couple of times when I actually had a hard time figuring out how to interpret what I was seeing or hearing, but I figured it out eventually.  Really, it just required thinking a little bit, but I imagine I would not have had this problem had I not watched it in pieces over many nights.  One could question whether or not the love story really works well since we do not necessarily see the development of the relationship of the two leads to quite the degree one would expect if we are to believe that they gradually fall in love throughout the movie.  Also, if by the end of the film we see everything from Tiffany’s perspective, then I think the dance competition should be of more value to her than it is to Pat’s family, but with the way the story is written, that is not the case.  Instead, we know that Tiffany has had an interested in the dance competition, but we do not know just how much it means to her, making the ending of the film a victory for the side characters rather than the girl who has suddenly become the lead.  (This would not be an issue had the point of view not changed, which would not have been necessary if the protagonist had been more likable, so I still claim that Pat’s lack of likability mid-way through is the movie’s greatest fault, and even then, it is not a huge one.)

Overall, the story is decent, and the characters are impressive, but what could give the film a special edge?  A great soundtrack.  The soundtrack to this movie is just awesome.  It features some of the most emotional songs ever recorded.  The use of “Maria” from West Side Story is oddly perfect, and while they did not go with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s jazz recording of the song, which is my favorite version, I love the fact that they used Dave Brubeck’s cover.  I love Dave Brubeck, and his music appears multiple times in the film.  Additionally, “Misty” by Johnny Mathis is so gorgeous, and it was also used in the film at just the perfect time.  Now let’s talk about the song that the movie features the most, “My Cherie Amour.”  This is one of the greatest songs ever recorded, and it has the magical ability to grab listeners and suck them into its sweet sadness, and then drown them in the intense emotion.  Such an amazing song, and once again, the movie used it to the perfect effect.  Well done, movie.

I must confess that, like the professor who never gives anyone an A, I almost never give movies more than four and a half stars, even if I really like them a lot.  This is because I have reserved five stars for my favorite movie of all time, and four and a half for movies that come close.  While this movie has some serious flaws, it has the miraculous ability to make me love it anyway.  This movie created incredibly close aesthetic distance by the end in a way that reminds me of Play It Again Sam.  It moved me emotionally to the point that I was on the edge of my seat at the very end of the film, hoping and praying that everything would work out between the leads, with the horrible fear that the movie made take a turn for the artistic and end on a downer.  Then, when they kissed, I finally sat back and let out a sigh of relief.  I was so impacted, that I had to go for a walk to ponder it (around midnight) so I had a chance of getting to sleep.

So, while I may really, really regret this, movie, I think I’ll be nice and give you the bonus half a star.  Well done.

39 Silver Linings Playbook

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