Friday, 3 May 2013

Silver Linings Playbook (Take #2)


I saw and reviewed this film a couple of weeks ago here. It made such an impact on me that when my local art-house cinema (Harbour Lights - Southampton) screened it last night, I dragged my significant other along to watch. A good move. As the film has long finished in the cinema and has been out on disc for a while, please forgive me if I discuss some aspects of the plot. If you don't want to know - stop reading here!

It's rare for me to re-watch a film so soon after a first viewing, but this was still very fresh in my mind and I wanted to know if I could see anything more in it second time around. In terms of plot and story development there wasn't much that was new. However, the characters made a stronger impact on me -particularly Pat (Bradley Cooper), Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) and Pat Senior (Robert De Niro). The energy and power with which Cooper delivers bi-polar Pat is captivating. The blend of in-your-face independent minx and vulnerable grieving widow that Lawrence moves between is entrancing. First time around the influence of De Niro's character had not made the same impact on me but this time it is clear that each successive male generation in the Solatano family ensured the family weaknesses were passed on and possibly even amplified. Hence Pat Junior's predisposition to the illness he suffered from.

What struck me even more this time around was how much this is a film about loss. Pat Junior has lost his job, house, mental health and wife. Pat Senior has lost his job and his pension - and his youngest son to mental illness. Tiffany has lost the love of her life and her self-respect. Ronnie has lost the fire in his marriage and a healthy perspective on his business. Danny has lost his freedom to mental illness. Nikki has lost her husband to mental illness and her marriage is unlikely to recover.

Some things received a positive exploration, such as the role of home as a sanctuary and place of acceptance - both Pat Junior's and Tiffany's parents (particularly Pat's mother) doing their utmost to hold their child lovingly and provide some degree of stability within a loving context. Another area to receive positive treatment was the importance of truth. Pat Junior confessed that he couldn't filter his thoughts before he spoke them and Tiffany was so direct and straight, she was at times frightening - but at the same time equally refreshing. You always knew where you were with Tiffany as she had developed the ability to reflect deeply on her feelings and relate them to her experience and thereby to grow in her ability to understand both herself and others. It is the character of Tiffany that drives the narrative towards its conclusion and provides the energy to empower change in the lives of those she touches.

Although the ending is a little Hollywood-sugary, I liked the fact that it wasn't predictable and had a couple of twists. I also liked the fact that a character who is central to the story throughout the film doesn't actually appear until the end. I would like to ask everyone who has seen the film to write down exactly what it is they think Pat whispered to Nikki at the end. What was it that he said so appropriately that allowed closure of one chapter the beginning of another?

For me this was even better second time around and it is clear to see why the 22 year-old Jennifer Lawrence was awarded an Oscar. It is refreshing to see a film with no car chases, explosions or shoot outs and minimal violence. The violence that does occur is located realistically within its context in the narrative. This is a plot and character driven film - and an excellent one at that. One to add to the list of films to use with groups to explore feelings, emotions, relationships and what it means to be family. I'm going to upgrade my original score and award it 8.5/10. Do get the disc and watch if you've not seen it - or see it again if you have. It will repay a second viewing.


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