Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

silverlinings1There was something rather therapeutically soothing about coming back to Silver Linings Playbook. I must admit this time around I was not quite as drawn to the direction of David O. Russell, because in some scenes it felt like too much attention was brought to his camera. However, I loved Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Rober De Niro, since each one of them is screwed up in their own unique ways. Although their story takes place in Philadelphia and a lot of talk is made about the Eagles, what these characters really are is a cross-section of humanity.

I was just thinking recently how I dislike the term “escapism” referring to watching movies and going to theaters to get away. I do not often consider that I go to movies to escape my life. Maybe I do sometimes, but I am fascinated by movies because they can tell us more about ourselves. More about what it is to be human and coping with all that is messed up — all that is broken.

Tiffany (Lawrence) and Patrick (Cooper), are both screwed up. There’s no getting past it. She’s a widow who got fired from her job for sleeping around and now she does dance as a sort of therapy. He just spent an 8-month stretch in a Psych ward after he caught his wife in the shower with one of her coworkers. Now whenever he hears his wedding song, he goes into an enraged fit. He tries to look for the silver lining in everything, but that does not stop him from hurting the ones he loves.

Tiffany and Patrick are made for each other, even if Patrick refuses to believe it. They both know what it is to be put through therapy, drugs, and the like after personal trauma. They both lack the common filter or etiquette that humanity usually requires. We love them anyway, in spite of these reasons or more likely because of these reasons.

De Niro is Patrick’s father and a man so invested in betting on Eagles football games that it drives his life. Superstitions run rampant in his household, but he refuses to acknowledge them, just like his son refuses to accept his own problems. It makes for some familial fireworks and interesting altercations, but at the end of the day, they are still family.

The whole film culminates in a dance competition that Tiffany and Patrick have been working up to for a long time. It has the big stakes that you would expect for a climatic event, but most importantly it is this moment in time where Patrick finally realizes Tiff is the girl for him. He finally sees what most of the audience saw all along. They are made for each other, and they can accept each other with all their idiosyncrasies. He continues living his life by The Silver Linings Playbook and it makes both Tiffany and him very happy.

4.5/5 Stars

American Hustle (2013)

f88cd-american_hustle_2013_posterFrom the get-go, this film sets the tone when we are cheekily told that “some of this actually happened.” Not that it’s based on a true story or based on actual events, but some of this might be true and other parts might be livened up a bit. Then we are thrown into a story we do not quite understand as of yet. All we know is that it’s the 1970s, the hair is crazy, the clothes are tacky by today’s standards, and America’s “Horse With No Name” still sounds good even after all these years.

For me, if this film was all about the story it would be okay, but the reason to watch it is really for the characters. Each one is a caricature who we can hardly take seriously, and yet in many respects, they are going through some very serious stuff. Christian Bale is a con man with an epic comb-over, a pot belly to match, and a Bronx accident, wearing his ever-present shades. He is one of the smartest con men around, but he also has a family life since he married a widowed woman and adopted her young son.

Amy Adams is the stylishly smart dame he meets at a party, and the two of them start a lucrative partnership upping the profitability of his conning enterprise.  Adams character hustles everyone with her fake English accent and identity, that over time it seems like she even seems to believe it herself until it is too late.

They are flying high and the two of them are drawn to the confidence and smarts they see in each other. However, in one instance they are not quite careful enough, and they have the Feds giving them heat. Namely, Bradley Cooper’s character who is out to make a name for himself. He is a man will a lot of attitude and a primped hairstyle, yet he seemingly knows very little. He forces Bale and Adams to work under him in order to trap others and of course they do.

But his plan becomes so big that the con becomes extremely volatile. It involves an Atlantic City mayor played by Jeremy Renner, the Mob, some congressmen, and even a senator, who have all unwittingly gotten themselves into something illegal.

Bale and Adams are trapped living lies that they must stop at some point because he has formed a bond with Renner and she is still masquerading as Lady Edith Greensley.

The final act ends with one final con, and I must admit that I was satisfied with the ending because as a member of the audience I expected a twist to come and, sure enough, it came. But I would have never have guessed it. It ultimately lived up to its name American Hustle.

I think what makes the performances good in this film are not the fact that they are lifelike or even realistic, but they are, in fact, larger than life. Sure, people like Irving, Richie Dimaso, Sydney Prosser, and Rosalyn probably did walk this earth, but the film highlights all their quirks and idiosyncrasies. Whether it is how they talk, dress, or even how they do their hair. Furthermore, they have even messier and crazier personal lives than their hair, and that’s saying a lot. These are not the kind of folks that you would want for friends, and yet could it be possible that there is a little bit of these characters in each one of us? Do we still live in a world where the Carmines are the victims and the real perpetrators get away scot-free? It’s something to ask ourselves.

I’m not sure why people compare this film to Scorsese, perhaps because it is a crime film, it takes place in the 1970s, it features the Mob, or it shows off one of Scorsese’s acting icons in Robert de Niro. No matter the reason, American Hustle is a separate entity that seems completely different from Scorsese. That does not make it bad, just unique. And that it is. You have to give David O. Russell credit for teaming his two previous casts (The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook) in this one for an acting extravaganza. It will be difficult to top this one as far as acting power goes. I must admit I was a sucker for the music too.

4.5/5 Stars

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

154c0-silver_linings_playbook_posterStarring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence with Robert De Niro, this film opens with a man named Pat who is being released from a mental health facility in Philadelphia. As he tries to recover from a tragic event in his marriage, he moves back in with his parents, goes to therapy sessions, and improves himself while struggling to keep his emotions in check. His traumatic past and bipolar disorder make life difficult but then he meets a young, straightforward widow named Tiffany. Because of their unique situations, they form an odd type of friendship. Eventually Tiffany agrees to give a letter to Pat’s wife if in return he trains as her partner for a dance competition. At the same time Pat’s superstitious father makes a giant bet on an Eagles football game as well as their contest which are both happening on the same day.

It finally arrives and they get ready to show off what they practiced only to have the unexpected occur. In the end, a new Pat realizes how he really feels and chooses to live his life the way he wants.

This film had a lot of coarse language and it was depressing at times. Despite this, the acting was great and it ultimately gave off a positive outlook that focused on the silver linings in life. The direction was solid and I also appreciated the soundtrack. Furthermore, this film tackled the difficult topic of mental illness head on with a good result.

4/5 Stars