Movie Review: Silver Linings Playbook
Please help me.
How do I find a bookie like the idiot played by Robert De Niro, who co-stars in the surprise hit movie Silver Linings Playbook?
Seriously, he’s got to be the dumbest bookmaker on the planet. Any real bookie who followed his habits would soon be standing at an intersection holding up a cardboard sign.
This is a film with no surprises. We know exactly what’s going to happen. Just glance at the movie poster. Even if you know nothing about the plot, go ahead — take a wild guess as to who connects with who in the final scene. First, boy meets girl. Next — you can pretty much figure out the rest.
Silver Linings Playbook is the most overrated film of the year. How this two-hour snooze-fest directed by David O. Russell (best work — Three Kings) garnered a whopping eight Oscar nominations isn’t a testament to this movie’s excellence, but rather what a terrible past year this has been in cinema.
The plot is simple. Two dysfunctional Gen-Xers return home to the old neighborhood to stay with their parents, each following a mental breakdown. Bradley Cooper has just been released from a psychiatric institution. Jennifer Lawrence has mental health issues of her own, and lives down the street.
Cooper meets Lawrence at a dinner party and the rest of the movie is pretty much the story of the interplay between the two leads. They spend most of the time fighting and insulting each other, sometimes viciously. But none of this seems to matter. All the f-bombs are instantly forgotten. We all know what’s going to happen in the final scene.
But predictability is the least of this mess of a movie’s countless problems. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the story is Cooper’s disturbing obsession with reuniting with his estranged wife. Remember, this man spent eight months locked up behind bars in a mental ward for committing a violent crime. Now, he’s free on probation and his sole mission in life to to get back with his ex.
Trouble is, his wife issued a restraining order against Cooper. That means he’s not allowed to visit or call or contact her in any way whatsoever. Despite this, Cooper ignores the law and goes to great lengths to pursue his target. Sure. Nothing proves one’s true love like acting the part of a stalker.
For some reason that I found baffling, many people in the audience found this endless pursuit to be an endearing quality — including women. There were plenty of laughs inside the theater as Cooper tries desperately to re-establish contact with his ex, including visiting her place of employment. How charming. I guess behaving like a obsessed stalker is okay if you happen to look like Bradley Cooper and were voted 2011′s Sexist Man Alive. Good thing they didn’t cast John C. Reilly for the part.
The film’s sole attribute comes in the lead performance of Jennifer Lawrence. She’s phenomenal in the role of slutty sexpot who’s determined to get what she wants (and you can guess who she’s after). Lawrence steals every scene she’s in and rightfully deserves the Oscar nomination that went her way this year. After such pedestrian schlock as The Hunger Games, her stock as one of Hollywood’s most in-demand actresses is about to soar through the roof after her remarkable work in this film.
The movie takes place in South Philadelphia. Accordingly, we’re subjected to all the typical stereotypes you’d expect. The only thing missing was Burt Young reprising the role of “Pauly” walking in the door with a sack of sausages.
WARNING: Mini-spoiler alert coming. So, if you want to skip the rest of the review, here’s the place to stop reading. That said, there’s nothing I’m about to write here that will surprise you.
Drum roll please….
Cooper ends up getting the girl (Lawrence).
The film has a few nice moments, which were usually tied to the catchy soundtrack. And it’s okay for us to dream and believe in fairly tales. But that doesn’t mask the reality that relationships take work. They require sacrifice and commitment from both sides. Yet, we’re led to believe that once the boy finally gets the girl, they live happily ever after. Never mind they’ve been screaming bloody murder during the entire movie, and haven’t agreed on anything. They have nothing in common. Neither has a job or it would seem, much of a future. So, what’s going to happen the first time Mrs. Lawrence tells Mr. Cooper to take out the trash? Or, leave the toilet seat down? Is Cooper going to go ballistic again like he did with his first wife?
Moreover, I won’t address the plausibility of Lawrence staying faithful in their relationship. At one point during the movie, she reveals that she had sex with everyone at her former workplace. Hmm, I wonder if the bookie would lay odds this relationship will last? I’ll bet the “don’t” for any price.
Of course, none of these issues come up in this paint-by-the-numbers script as the two crazed lovers are shown standing out the middle of the street, embracing and kissing. In the movies, everyone lives happily ever after — including nut cases.
Throughout the entire movie, I had the feeling this was a throwaway script that was originally intended as one of those instantly forgettable summer releases — you know, the kind of movie that makes a quick $50 million before word gets out how bad it is? Adam Sandler and Jennifer Garner have made careers doing these kinds of movies. If there’s a lesson to be learned here, once again, it’s that a good movie always starts with good writing. Accordingly, this film went into production with a serious handicap.
Speaking of handicapping, let’s get back to that idiot bookie, shall we? Remember — Robert De Niro plays Cooper’s dad. He lost his job some time ago, so he turned to bookmaking to support his family. Fair enough.
Trouble is, nothing in this movie is the least bit convincing that he’s actually a bookmaker. The phone never rings. There are no notebook at his side to scribble down the wagers. How does he keep track of the bets? Who are his customers? He never once discusses games or point spreads, other than those involving his beloved Philadelphia Eagles when he’s in action. In fact, De Niro is so obsessed with the Eagles that he watches them religiously — completely oblivious to other games on which his livelihood depends. One might think that a bookie based in Philadelphia would a rooting interest in Eagles’ games, and if so — he’s very likely to want the other side to win (and cover) since most locals tend to bet on their favorite team. But De Niro plays the role of the ultimate sap.
This criticism might seem like nit-picking to someone who doesn’t bet sports or understand the subculture of bookmaking. But the filmmakers here should have made a more concerted effort to get it right.
The most laughable part of the movie comes near the end. I won’t give away the finale. But De Niro essentially gambles his entire life savings on the outcome of a single football game. Who does he bet on? You guessed it — his Philadelphia Eagles.
A few scenes later, De Niro is back at it again. This time, he wants to bet a parlay. He learns the line on the upcoming Philadelphia-Dallas game is “Eagles -1.” De Niro wants to bet on his beloved Eagles so badly, that he offers his business partner and fellow bookie a preposterous wager. He says “I’ll give you Dallas plus ten points! The Eagles must win by ten!”
On a game lined at “-1?”
He’s willing to surrender NINE POINTS? Really? This clown is a bookie?
How can I get in touch with this joker?
When the two partners can’t agree on a line, the proposition gets even worse. De Niro wants to bet on the Eagles along with another wager that’s tied to a local dance contest (don’t ask — it’s not worth explaining). Any normal two-team parlay would pay out 2.6 to 1. But De Niro gets only 2 to 1.
To be fair, I saw this movie in Las Vegas — where sports gambling in commonplace. But the De Niro segment of the movie was so absurd and annoying, that I heard a few catcalls and even some uncontrolled laughter. Not good.
It’s a bad sign when the most memorable thing about a movie are its glaring flaws. But alas, those are pretty much the only parts of the film that kept me interested in what was an instantly forgettable and utterly disappointing film.
In the end, Silver Linings Playbook has about as much entertainment value as a losing sportsbook ticket.
RATING: ONE STAR OUT OF FIVE