All Sorts of Things

Random posts on all sorts of things designed to inform and provoke.

Movies: Silver Linings Playbook is a Traditional Rom-Com Dressed Up in a Sheen of Critical Positivity

@@._V1_SX214_It’s notoriously difficult to mount a successful romantic comedy (rom-com) because even though the movie is composed of a humorous plot and romantic ideals, one can never get over the thought that the primary characters are too self-involved to be allowed to live, let alone live happily.

That’s because, unlike the romantic movie which generally has a tragic event (Deborah Kerr losing the use of her legs for example), characters in a rom-com never go through anything even remotely sad. They may have unfortunate things happen to them but those issues are so relatively miniscule, one cannot help but think of these folks as self-involved narcissists.

The American rom-com is a particularly ugly step-child of this genre and no movie better exemplifies this malice than You Got Mail which forced a pre-plastic surgery Meg Ryan to go through the horror of losing her bookstore while retaining ownership of a multi-million dollar apartment in Manhattan.

Incidentally, Ryan got multiple job offers in such a short time that she didn’t even have to change her daily habit of drinking expensive Starbucks coffee. Which is not to say that she didn’t face any long-term threats; the primary one being that she fell in love with a portly – and getting portlier – Tom Hanks. Of course, Ryan didn’t realize the risks involved in this relationship and so the movie ended on a tragic note as Hanks ate her for dinner.

Most American rom-coms follow the You Got Mail model – barring the cannibalism – and, despite the generally accepted idiocy of the American moviegoer, have seen declining box-office grosses. This trend continued until the arrival this past winter of the Silver Linings Playbook (SLP) which has become a major box-office success.

A rom-com cloaked in effusive critical praise, SLP is like a wolf in sheep’s clothing as it dutifully incorporates all the requirements of this genre including matching an older leading man with a much younger co-star.

Not to go off on a tangent but how has not one serious critic noted that Jennifer Lawrence looks 15 years younger than Bradley Cooper and that, if their courtship happened in real life, people would think Cooper was a Catholic priest.

Which is not to say that there aren’t a number of things to recommend about this film. The acting is above-par as all the actors do a great job: Cooper is especially good, it’s nice to see DeNiro not making a fool of himself and Chris Tucker shows he can act in something other than Rush Hour. Despite this, and some great dialogue, the one thing that sets this movie apart from other rom-coms is its setting i.e. a relatively real world versus an idealized one designed by multinationals.

Some have noted that SLP’s primary characters have issues that aren’t normally present in rom-coms. This is true but since it really doesn’t affect their behavior – Cooper doesn’t really hurt anyone and Lawrence’s problem is that she sleeps around, which, to be honest, is a huge positive – the issues argument is more a marketing hook rather than anything substantive.

The bottom line is that SLP is a decent movie that is not a game-changer or something that should win every award under the sun; having said that, the whole awards scene is such a disaster that SLP winning an award or two wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

Regardless, it’s a decent movie and a time-pass: see it in a cinema if you think it’ll get you laid, otherwise wait for it to come to the discount theater or DVD/VOD.

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This entry was posted on February 8, 2013 by in Culture and tagged , , , , , , .
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