Saturday, November 24, 2012

"Silver Linings Playbook": Bradley Cooper proves he can act hyper; moving back to mom and dad isn't a picnic


I’ve sometimes thought of Bradley Cooper as the portrait of the “perfect” young adult male. Well, in “Silver Linings Playbook”, he shows a little gray in his beard, but after all, he’s almost 38 now.

In this film, his persona (Pat) talks too fast, and has a lot on his mind – after all, he’s just returned to live “at home” in suburban Philadelphia under the supervision of his parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver) after probational release from a mental institution. 

One has some sympathy for his background.  Apparently, he was a high school history teacher, and when he caught a rival teacher or administrator with his wife, he went ballistic.  That doesn’t take bipolar disorder.  But now, he’s lost everything and finds his life very much dependent on the whims of others.  (Since I’ve worked as a substitute teacher, I’d have been interested in having the school back story more developed.)

The rather long and verbose comedy goes into some interesting areas.  Early. Pat throws a copy of Hemingway’s book “A Farewell to Arms” (a 1932 movie from director Frank Borzage) out an attic window, breaking it. His dad is into following pro football and trying to raise money to resurrect a family business.  There’s a scene involving a brawl outside Veteran’s Stadium at an Eagle’s game  (dad is a rabid Eagles and Phillies fan); I wanted to see a scene with some pro football scores (probably very expensive to do).   There’s an interesting subtext here: Dad had gotten into a fight at the stadium now and is now on the “exclusion list”.  (How do stadiums and bars enforce “no fly” lists, anyway?)  And the climax of the film involves a “dancing with the stars” contest in the Benjamin Franklin hotel.  Pat proves that heterosexuals can really do dirty dancing – yet his shirt always stays buttoned.

Much of the plot contains a second girl friend Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who lost her own husband to an accident.  She plays head games with him, but he gradually does start to respond to them in real time.
After my William and Mary “expulsion” in 1961, and my inpatient period at NIH in 1962 for “therapy”< I lived at home while going to college.  I didn’t lose “everything”, but I had lost my chance for a normal college experience, with the social maturity that it affords.  But my whole scene was quite different from what is shown here in this film.  My experience was much more subtle to depict. 

The public's impression of this whole plot theme may have been partially shaped by the history of John Warnock Hinckley (who attempted to assassinate Ronald Reagan in 1981), who has sometimes been released to his parents from a lifetime in a mental institution.  He is treated like a child, at least according to media reports. 

The official site from The Weinstein Company (TWC) is here


I saw this film at the Angelika Mosaic in Merrifield, VA.  The new theater is now showing about half independent (usually larger films), half “full studio” films.  I had hoped it could remain all independent.  Let me note that I do love the cafe food (like the "Autumn Salad", where squash tips substitute for croutons). More theaters need to offer more than popcorn, nachoes and soft drinks.  A Rave theater complex at Fairfax Corner rents space to two different food chains and shares the concession profits, to expand consumer choice.  That's the right idea.  

For today’ s short film, look up on YouTube “Pristine Books” (2002), the Adelaide (Australia) film festival. And older man comes between two younger men of a newer generation.  It’s rather grainy. 

Compare this film to "Limitless" (March 24, 2011) where Cooper and De Niro appear. 

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