Saturday, June 01, 2013

Stormy Weather and Silver Linings

Thursday, late afternoon, we were about to go see The Great Gatsby on its last non-3D showing at our local cinema. Just as we were going out the phone rang - tornado warning for the area. I'd checked on-line radar and the map didn't seem to be showing anything dire for our town, at least between the movie's start and end times. Sirens sounded, we waited. Another phone call, waited some more, another call with the same warning. Switched the TV on to a local station where the weatherman was getting excited about wall clouds and rotations near a town some 15 minutes away. Discretion being the better part of valour, and with the thought that, even though the cinema would be a safe enough building in which to be sheltered in case of tornadic activity, our car would be standing outside in the carpark. If tales of golf ball to tennis ball-sized hail were to be believed....well.....enough said. We ditched our plan but decided that once the storm had passed we'd go rent a couple of up-to-date DVDs for the evening's entertainment.

What I picked out proved to be considerably less entertaining than The Great Gatsby might have been, which was surprising as one of the DVDs was Silver Linings Playbook, it garnered tons of acclaim at various award ceremonies last Fall. The other DVD was Cosmopolis which had one of my favourite actors, Paul Giamatti in the cast. The only thing I''ll write on Cosmopolis is to agree with a remark of the late Roger Ebert about it: "You couldn't pay me to watch it again!" I don't itch to see Silver Linings again either - but if paid, I would!

For anyone who hasn't seen Silver Linings Playbook, or read the novel (which, I understand, has some important differences from the film's screenplay) some brief detail from Wikipedia:

Silver Linings Playbook is a 2012 American romantic comedy-drama film directed by David O. Russell, screenplay by Russell, adapted from the novel The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick.

Bradley Cooper plays Patrizio "Pat" Solitano, a man with bipolar disorder who is released from a psychiatric hospital and moves back in with his parents. Determined to win back his estranged wife, Pat meets recently-widowed sex addict Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence). She tells Pat that she will help him get his wife back if he enters a dance competition with her. The two become closer as they train and Pat, his father (Robert de Niro), and Tiffany examine their relationships with each other as they cope with their disorders.

It received eight Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay; it became the first film since 1981 to be Oscar-nominated for the four acting categories and the first since 2004 to be nominated for the Big Five Oscars, with Lawrence winning the Academy Award for Best Actress. It also achieved four Golden Globe Award nominations, with Lawrence winning Best Actress; three BAFTA nominations, with Russell winning for Best Adapted Screenplay; four Screen Actors Guild nominations, with Lawrence winning Best Actress; and five Independent Spirit Award nominations, winning in four categories including Best Film and Best Actress for Lawrence. The film was a blockbuster at the box office, grossing over $235 million worldwide, more than eleven times its budget.

The movie portrays the key family as Italian-Americans, but the novel names the leading character Patrick Peoples, rather than Patrizio (Pat) Solitano, and sets the tale in New Jersey rather than Philadelphia as in the film. I'd have appreciated the Italian reference more if Bradley Cooper had looked the least bit Italian. I don't understand why this particular change was seen as necessary. I understand that Cooper wasn't first choice to play the part of "Pat", Vince Vaughan or Mark Wahlberg were ahead of him, but neither looks Italian. Nicholas Cage wasn't mentioned as a possibility, but would have been a perfect choice. He wouldn't have given off that essential crowd-pleasing good-guy-but-rascally vibe that has become Cooper's signature. Cage would have had a more correct darker vibe to match a storyline involving violence to the point of near-murder.

Jennifer Lawrence was the only non-disappointment in the movie for me. She's so good, so young! Reminded me at times of a young Renée Zellweger, without irritating facial expressions.

For at least the first half of the movie, maybe first two-thirds, I kept turning to husband with variations of, "How the heck did this film get all the acclaim it did?" He wondered the same: "It's not the usual Award material - nowhere near it!" The last third of the film got me slightly more engaged, the dance competition, full chic-flick mode kicking in. The ending felt contrived though (to say the least!) A crowd pleasing ending was essential for Christmas-time screenings, I guess.

I felt uncomfortable about the way the movie treated serious mental disorders of various kinds so lightly (bi-polar and attendant violence, OCD, and gambling or sex addiction). Maybe I'm being too po-faced on this and ought to lighten up. I didn't laugh out loud once, whereas I've since read reviews where laughing "until sides hurt" was mentioned. I must be incredibly out of the loop then.

Maybe the movie was just too American for me to appreciate, though it seems to have done well enough on its showings in the UK. I've been wondering if the story could translate well, using alternative British motifs and clichés (and yes, this movie is full of clichés): soccer instead of American football, less "hyperness" all round, maybe set in down-to-earth but soccer-crazy Liverpool, Manchester, or somewhere in might translate, but not easily. I doubt I'd find it funny, even in translation.


Anonymous said...

I hated this movie; it was loud and boring right up until the dance competition. Films where the main characters scream at one another for much of two hours makes my eyes glaze over. Since I paid for it, I sat through to the end. Being from Philadelphia, I enjoyed the street locations and the Eagles tailgating football scenes were spot on. I don't get Bradley Cooper no matter what film I see him in and the character of his mother just plain annoyed me. Jennifer Lawrence while a great actress, spent most of the film yelling at Bradley as did DeNiro. I liked Jennifer better in "Winters' Bone" for which she was also nominated (and should have won instead of I believe, Sandra Bullock) for an Oscar. BTW, I found an old copy of "A Town Called Alice" which you recommended in your post a few months back about "On the Beach". Speaking of films from Austrailia, have you ever seen, "Careful, He Might Hear you"? Five Stars.

Twilight said...

Anonymous ~~~ I'm glad I'm not the only one not impressed with Silverlingings Playbook! :-)

I liked Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games, haven't seen Winter's Bone - will look out for it.

Re a Town Like Alice the old film, wih Peter Finch, is okay, but the TV mini-series is a very much better adaptation of the novel - Bryan Brown plays Joe. It's hard to find though. The book is a very good read too.

No, I haven't seen Careful, He Might Hear You - another one I'll look out for.

Anonymous said...

I found the "Alice" mini series and it was great. I love those stories that stretch over the years. Bryan Brown was always a fovorite going back to when I first saw him in "The Thorn Birds".

Twilight said...

Anonymous ~ Me too - TV mini-series used to do them well, too.
I've always thought Bryan Brown has been under-estimated as an actor.

The Oz actors are all pretty good (and pretty too!) - Simon Baker is another I like, and of course, old Huge (Hugh Jackman), and mustn't forget Paul Hogan (before the facelift though!)
:-) said...

so nice blogger