Thursday, 28 February 2013

The Silver Linings Playbook

On Friday March 1st the electricity supply stopped on the hill and only commenced to come back on after 45 minutes and along our side of the street about an hour later with a work team quickly on the scene. However something happened to my desk top computer and later I managed to end its life as far as I can judge and the next step will be to see if the documents on the hard disk, especially my work records and writings can be retrieved, especially those pieces being worked on. Fortunately I had already posted some film reviews so I have been able to copy.


Last Sunday I stayed up until 4am watching the Oscars, and completing the last part of the programme when I got up around mid morning Monday to find out who had won the best picture and principal acting awards. I hoped that the actor in a lead female role would go to Jenifer Lawrence, whose performance I had arranged to see at the Bolden Cineworld on the Tuesday rather than Emanuelle Riva in Armour which was being shown on the Monday evening and although I was not in a fit I would have dragged myself to the theatre to experience had she been successful as she was at the BAFTA’s. My wish was granted and Ms Lawrence won.


My memory of what happened on Tuesday, including what I eat has become a blank but I am guessing that I did listen to the two episodes of the new BBC dramatization of the Cruel Sea, the Nicolas Monsarrat story and where I also have seen for the umpteenth time the Jack Hawkins starring film on a TV film channel within the past month. The film is excellent although it misses out the political and social comments and has a more positive ending than what happens in the original story. I will review after I have reread the book.


My memory is coming back as needing to do some supermarket shopping I decided to go to the Asda in town and not at Bolden as I wanted some frozen foods. I had also intended to have a McDonalds with coffee, but it was colder than anticipated so instead I had three sausages in a bun with a coffee in the café before making the shop and returning home and then making a dash to the cinema getting there about 15 mins before the show commenced. There was time to buy a small carton of Ben and Jerry Cherry ice cream which I took to my aisle seat only to find that a party of three were occupying seats next to me despite being at the side and where the young woman sitting next talked incessantly until the film commenced.


The cinema was showing all the nominated films in special performance each day at six thirty with the exception of Les Miserables and Django Unchained which were in the on going schedule for the week. Unusually there were no adverts or trailers so those who came late missed the opening scenes.


I have elected to begin with this film because having seen most of the other main contenders, Argo and Zero Dark Thirty, Les Miserables and Lincoln as well as Skyfall, included only at the BAFTA’s I declare Silver Linings Playbook the best of a good bunch, because it includes four major acting performances, all nominated for the first time in one  film  for several decades, was engaging with natural humour which caused me to laugh expressively several times and tackled subjects of disturbed and disturbing mental and emotional behaviour.


The film is billed as about bi-polar disorder although it is also about someone with a temporary addiction to sex. Bi polar disorder is a comparatively recent psychiatric term for those who for the previous 100 years or so were described as manic depressives. Given the history of the treatment of people whose social behaviour becomes unacceptable, labelling in this way is only of use if it enables successful treatment. In the past labelling has led to unnecessary containment and an inappropriate care from burning at stake to involuntary surgery, long periods of captivity, torture and the experimental application of substances. Labelling stigmatises and creates further problems for individuals and their families,


My best quote is from a former psychiatrist colleague who in charge of a large residential establishment in large grounds commented that at least the majority of his patients knew they were unwell and which is not something he could say for his staff. He was realistic about what can be achieved in an institution as well as recognising the ingenuity of patients and staff to disregard his leadership.

In the instance of the film the father in the family is played by that fine actor Robert De Niro who is a fanatical American football supporter of the local team but who has been banned from the ground because of his violent outburst in the past and now watches the games on TV insisting on a ritual with everything positioned always in the same place. He watches the game with the kind of friend where each man delights in getting one over the other, in this instance by betting against each other and with the friend supporting another team.

He has two sons, the first is presented as a normal American dream son, who did well at school and college and now is successful in business, with a great car, great job and about to marry a great woman, He still goes to the game with his peers from work who appear to be cast in similar mould and where as a group they behave as typical alpha males i.e. normal. It emerges that De Nero favoured this boy and gave his time as a consequence than to his named after him son, Pat Jnr played by Bradley Cooper who would have won the best acting award had it not been for the performance of Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln.


It could be argued that Pat Jnr is normal despite losing his temper like his father, getting into fights nearly killing the man he found one day coming home early with his wife in the shower, all three were teachers, the other two remain but Pat although he has not been sacked is not regarded as now suitably to return. (After all if you beat an intruder in your home attempting to steal from you the police and courts may consider this OK so why not if go for the man trying to steal your wife or vice versa!)

As an alternative to prison for the violent assault he has accepted treatment in a psychiatric institution and his wife has taken out a restraining order preventing him contacting or approaching her presumably because he had made persistent attempts to contact her although much of his past is implicit, the nature of their relationship emerging as the film progressed.

The film does not make it clear if his behaviour has always been bipolar in which instance it would be unlikely he was have qualified and practiced as a teacher, or if it was something which built up and led to the unfaithfulness of his wife. The conclusion we are asked to make is that the nature of the relationship with his dominating father, and comparatively weak mother is such that there were problems which blew up with the finding of the act of adultery. In some countries of course the woman has been and would still be stoned! There are comments introduced to indicate that the marriage lacked sexual passion, that his wife had come not love him and that they little in common although also that he had become obsessed with himself showing no interest in her choice of teaching subjects.

Pat‘s mother, Dolores, is played by Jackie Weaver nominated as best supporting actor in a female role although she is not even listed in the Wikipedia article. She appears as a loyal, long suffering mother who had held he family together and is now struggling to cope as her husband has lost his job and is living from being the neighbourhood bookmaker while planning to design build/adapt a restaurant to secure his and his wife’s financial future.

What triggered Pat violence was not so much the finding of the adultery but that she was playing their wedding song and when Pat goes to meet his appointed outpatient therapist, an Asian doctor, the man is playing the same record on the waiting room speakers as a deliberate act to see if Pat is able to control himself as he has alleged he is able to do so, despite finding ways not to take his medication.

While in hospital Pat has accepted the advice that he must focus on the positives, the silver linings, and in order to gain his wife back he insists on going to the public library immediately on release to borrow all the course books that his wife teaches, to demonstrate that he is interested in her life and just not obsessed with his own. Without medication he is unable to sleep and the middle of the night breaks into a rage on reading the negative ending of a work of fiction used as a standard book and which he then throws out of the window. In a separate incident, also in the middle of the night he cannot find his copy of the wedding video and losing control he strikes his mother causing his father to attack his son. The local police are called by the neighbours indicating that in fact Pat had his problems before the marriage break up.

Instead of the script and direction leading to tense and dramatic moments, the touch is always light with much warm humour which leads an audience into understanding and empathy rather than fear and hostility. This is not to suggests that there are not several dramatic and emotionally engaging scenes

Pat goes out running as a means of trying to find the location of his wife who has moved, monitoring trains at the station, visiting the school where he meets up with a senior teacher/head who is clearly frightened of him. He also meets up with his closest friend who has missed the opportunity having a moan with Pat about his own difficulties with his wife who appears to be a strong and rather cold woman, a friend of Pats wife and with the two women portrayed as having similar traits. Pat is surprised when he is invited to a Sunday meal especially as he was aware that the man‘s wife dislikes him and the influence over her husband.

Unbeknown to Pat the wife’s sister has also been invited to the meal, a young widow after three years of marriage the result of a hit a run and she appears to have become just as forthright and invites Pat to have sex with her within moments of their meeting. He appears the horrified married man, and rightly believes she is tracking him on his runs ( later revealed the information came from Pat’s mother) but he invites her out for meal where she reveals the details of how she lost her husband and he guilt she feels. At the meal which he insists is not a date she discloses that in her grief she had sex with everyone at her office, 11 people and Pat becomes excitedly interested when she discloses the details of one relationship with an older female member of staff. She has been sex in the same way some turn to drink and drugs.

She offers to pass a letter via her sister to Pat’s wife on the basis that he will train with her to enter a local dance competition something which her husband had not been interested and which will help her to let go and move on. At first resisting and only because of the offer to pass a letter he participates but over the following days and weeks he looks forward to the training together continuing when get gets a typed carefully worded reply from his wife open to more than one interpretation but which gives Pat hope despite its cold and calculated wording.

It is evident that both are becoming attracted and attached to each other. At the hospital Pat was friends with a “ barrack room “ lawyer, a black American, and when the man is eventually free he comes to give Pat advice showing more passionate and sexy contemporary dance moves which Part finds threatening to his relationship. Also threatened but by Pat‘s involvement with the young woman is De Nero who resents that his is not there to share Football games with him on TV or talk about the teams and the plays, he creates a problem for his son when he discloses that he placed all the money saved for the restaurant on a bet for the next game with his friend and rival. Moreover Pat’s brother arrives full of himself to take Pat to the game, the day when he had agreed to spend perfecting a difficult dance move. The father is attempting to atone for having favoured the other son and is wanting to spend time with Pat to show confidence in his son.

At the game a party of Asian supporters arrive which attracts adverse racial comments including from his brother’s work colleagues. One of the Asians is the psychiatrist Pat sees as an outpatient and he is as fanatical about the team as De Nero, dressed in the colours and the face paint. When there are more insults it is Pat‘s brother who gets involved in a fight about the racism and Pat joins in to protect his brother with everyone arrested although released when the psychiatrist explains what happened and goes to Pat’s home to further explain the situation. However De Nero is furious because the team lost and he loses his savings to his friend.

Stood up for the dance practice, the young woman, Tiffany, arrives and immediately challenges De Nero pointing out that in fact the team had won whenever Pat was with her and they lost when he was not. Although she disliked football she has studied the position and is able quote games and scores from the throughout the regular season to such an extent that De Niro is not only impressed but places a double or quits bet with his friend, on the local team beating the Dallas Cowboys on the same day as the dance competition and that the couple will score at least an average of 5 out 10 ten in the competition.

On the day the family and friends gather to support the dancing couple who quickly lose heart when they see the strength of the semi professional competition. Worse is to come despite the news that the Cowboys have lost as Tiffany spots Pat’s wife with her sister and husband watching the competition.

In order to get Pat to participate given that his father was putting so much trust in him, the young woman and his mother pretend that his wife has agreed to be present to witness that he has become self disciplined and in control. As she had not passed on his letter and written the reply she had not anticipated the arrival of his wife and believing this will end her prospects of a relationship with Pat she goes to bar and to try and get drunk allowing a stranger to but a round for her. Pat manages to find her in time and gets her to dance which is obscenely intimate in part. They get the minimum average of five from the judges so the bet is won. She leaves as soon as she sees Pat go over to his wife. With his father urging him not to dally Pat rushes after Tiffany and admits that he was aware that she had forged the letter but had not told her as he thought it was romantic.


He had been cured in the sense of able to move on from his wife and he had been over to tell her, and cured in these sense of realising how ill he had become, he had been taking the medication since striking his mother, The films ends with everyone in the family celebrating Christmas together, including his friend from hospital.

The young woman, Tiffany, is played by Jennifer Lawrence who at 22 is now regarded as the most talented actress in the
USA. In addition to the Oscar winning performance in Silver Linings Playbook she was nominated for the same award for Winter‘s Bone, and is the youngest woman to receive two such nominations and she has already received hundreds of nominations and awards through the USA and in addition to the two films mentioned her performance in the Hunger Games, a film I missed and wish to see and also the last X men film and where she will appear in the next film in this series. The girl has a golden future.

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