Tuesday, 27 November 2012


I don't demand of any film that it leaves me with no doubts, no questions as I walk out of the theatre. If I am unable to determine quite what sort of a film it was supposed to be, perhaps the problem is with me, and not the film. But I don't think David O. Russell knew quite what sort of a film he was trying to make in Silver Linings Playbook. It's a schizophrenic film, and an uncomfortable experience. The intentionally sloppy editing and use of music and humour contribute towards a manic style that is expected in Russell's films, and welcome too, until it obscures those details at the heart of Silver Linings Playbook, like the people, and their conflicts. Conflict surfaces regularly here, and it is frequently dampened by an irreverence on Russell's behalf and an unwillingness to probe deeper, thus stranding the conflict so that it can be speedily disposed of when it no longer suits to have it lingering in the background any more. The tonal inconsistency is bewildering, but tolerable, but when this irreverence extends to the characters and their personal troubles and motivations, Silver Linings Playbook loses its raison d'etre and becomes just another shallow rom-com, crafted only to satisfy the average undiscerning audience member. Bradley Cooper doesn't appear to grasp the concept of mental illness - the restless script helps him none, but there's too much knowingness in his gaze, and he's too quick to the punchlines to convince. Jennifer Lawrence battles against Russell's persistent objectification of her character, and gives Robert De Niro one particularly venomous glance that knocked my socks off, before being forced to contradict herself and senselessly spout football stats - Lawrence kills it in one sense, and Russell kills the film in another sense, both at the same time. Chris Tucker's character (whose name, if memory serves, was Token) turns up occasionally to say "Damn!"; Jacki Weaver is the sole leading cast member who seems to understand the film she's in and her purpose within it - she's understated and lovely. The dance routine finale is a fantastic summation of everything a David O. Russell film ought to be, and cheered me up a little, but much of the damage had already been done. For one thing, I've yet to see a film about football that I actually enjoyed.