They say a critic shouldn't get personal and should maintain a sort of distance from a particular movie in order to remain objective and not to get too passionate about certain things. What I think is wrong with this particular expectation is that it forgets that the reviewer is also a regular moviegoer when it comes to a particular film and their opinion receives more attention because they have better terms to describe what others feel about a picture.
So, should I aspire to become a "good critic" and give up being passionate about a certain film just for the sake of more appreciation? It’s true, I’m closely affected by the subject of Silver Linings Playbook and that can cause two things, depending on how I react to it: a) I completely reject it because I feel that the way the movie portrays its subject is way out of reach, over-the-top and theatrical, b) I develop a sweet spot for it instantly because I get more of the „inside jokes” of it. In this particular case, it’s more of the latter: there came a certain point in the movie after which I couldn’t maintain that distance from the movie and was immediately taken by its beautiful way of telling the story of Pat, a bipolar man who tries to find a new beginning in his life after a horrible incident by getting back to her wife.
What I instantly impressed me about Silver Linings Playbook is the delicate way David O. Russell approached this subject: you can feel that the story is personal for him and he didn’t turn to cheap theatrics even in the most over-the-top scenes in the film. The directing, writing and the editing add up to a dazzling, unbalanced and bizarre experience, surprising you way too much. The whole roller coaster feeling of the film makes it one extended, haunting manic episode.
However, Russell holds this chaos together thanks to the outstanding work of an exceptional cast, led by an amazing Bradley Cooper who reached an unexpected (to many) career high with the character of Pat. He has two key scenes in the movie, which could have become standard meltdowns made for an Oscar clip, but instead they are both extremely terrifying and heartbreaking (I’m talking about the one at home and the one in front of the cinema). The way he shows the over-the-top hysterics of the character, while also crying for help silently in his eyes is astonishing. If people weren’t so snobbish about romantic comedies as they are today, this character would become just as iconic as Alvy Singer, but alas, people look down on films like this. Moreover, the frequent criticism of gender inequality is constantly proven wrong by Cooper who clearly puts an emphasis on how much Pat also depends on Tiffany.
Since I’m going to review Jennifer Lawrence very soon, I’m saving my lengthy comments on her performance, but let me just say that she’s an essential part of an amazing ensemble whose every member is able to create three-dimensional characters, even with their limited parts. De Niro gets the most showy part and uses all the opportunities to have fun and also prove that he didn’t lose his acting chops somewhere around Meet the Fockers. And I’ll have to defend Jacki Weaver’s nomination: her character’s caring and loving presence undeniably uplifts the movie and provides us with some of the loveliest moments. I don’t think she’s worse than her fellow nominees (in my opinion, she captures a mother’s love way better than our actual winner-to-be). Even Chris Tucker is able to display his skills in small part, which he rarely gets to do. The members of the cast should really win that SAG Ensemble Prize come Sunday for their contribution to creating the bittersweet and yet magical atmosphere of Silver Linings Playbook.
However, to embrace and enjoy all of the aspects of the movie you really need to leave behind your cynicism and try to believe that a movie with a “silver lining” can actually be just as worthy of being considered a masterpiece as one about decaying human beings. After all, cinema has to capture reality and reality always offers us a silver lining. And why couldn’t Silver Linings Playbook become that particular silver lining?
What do you think?