Every year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences now selects up to 10 movies for consideration as Best Picture of the year. Making sure I saw all five when it was only five was hard enough (and a task I successfully completed only in 1997, when Titanic won); doubling that is near impossible for me. Throw in a new kid, and my chances of getting close are basically nil.
What I’m getting at with this long-winded intro is that the only “Oscar” movie I saw this year – and just this weekend – was Silver Linings Playbook. No Argo, no Django, no Zero Dark Thirty, not even an Amour. Just Silver Linings Playbook. Did I spend my money (i.e.: a pair of AMC Gold Passes I got from work for Christmas) well?
Now, this movie started pretty strong. Much hay was made of it being the first movie in thirty-odd years to get a nomination in every acting category, and I’m fine with all those nominations. Bradley Cooper shows he can do more than “handsome asshole” with a portrayal of a guy with bipolar disorder that, while it has its moments of intensity, doesn’t get too showy. De Niro finally did something other than “The De Niro,” and had some earned emotional moments. And did Jennifer Lawrence deserve to win Best Actress? Not sure, but she was great in the movie as a widow trying to find herself in some shocking ways after her husband’s death, and I have no arguments with her nomination. Even Chris Tucker was more than tolerable. Yes, THAT Chris Tucker.
If I have any reservations about the acting nominations, it’s Jacki Weaver’s. I don’t feel she did a bad job; I just think it was such a non-part I didn’t get the nomination. I guess if the role is written as a secondary worried mom character, that’s not her fault, but I just didn’t get enough out of her to feel she really needed to be nominated. As Queta says, we can’t all be Judi Dench.
To address the mental health elephant in the room: I think SLP did just fine with its use of bipolar disorder. Cooper plays the manic periods without going absolutely overboard, and his sadly optimistic ramblings about his wife taking him back makes him sympathetic. Though I’m no mental health expert, I don’t feel the movie took the cheap way out with this.
At least, until the last third of the film.
OK, so, let’s just go ahead and do this…
The goodwill the film built up for me with regards to the use of mental health issues kinda gets shit on in the last third when the script basically turns Pat Jr’s (Cooper) bipolar disorder into the equivalent of “movie asthma.” It’s not that he doesn’t struggle with it at all in the film; massive chunks of the film are dedicated to him in therapy or taking meds or dealing with the ramifications of his outbursts. It’s just that at the point right before the big dance contest (in fact, right around the time Pat Sr makes the double-or-nothing parlay) we see no more struggle. He’s able to keep his cool, convince Tiffany (Lawrence) to participate in the contest after she has her moment of weakness, and even manages to tell off the wife he was obsessing over the whole goddamn movie. No more inhaler, I guess.
And about that “ex”-wife: I propose that she never should have been in the movie in the first place. She worked so much better as a phantom; an entity that, by her nonexistence onscreen, was a metaphor for the impossibility of Pat Jr getting her back, which underscored his delusions of somehow magically saving his marriage from almost killing the guy she was cheating on him with anyhow. Right?
Then she shows up at the fucking dance contest.
Really, she should’ve never been there. Then there could’ve been a situation where he’s fully confronted with her not coming back, and then we lead into the full Tiffany romance. Or, if we HAD TO have the ex-wife there, then I needed to see him run back into her arms more easily. You know, since he spent an hour and a half rambling on constantly about their inevitable reunion. We still could’ve had him come to his senses and return to Tiffany, but there would have at least been more of a battle.
But no, we get him doing the whole “what’s he whispering to his ex-wife” thing (easy guess, it’s that he’s moved on), and the tearful reunion with Tiffany. Inhaler: gone. Ugh. Given the rawness of the first two-thirds of the film, it’s too neat of a resolution. I’m not even against a happy ending, but the film didn’t quite earn it in this way.
Did I love Silver Linings Playbook like so many did? Not at all. I didn’t hate it either; the acting is great, and I liked a lot of the cinematography (except the dozens of crash zooms every time someone learned something important – there’s such a thing as too many crash zooms, David O). But the lack of follow-through on its portrayal of bipolar disorder and the cheap ending really sunk it for me. It was a disappointment given all the Oscar hype, but it certainly wasn’t the worst Oscar movie I’ve seen.