Friday, December 21, 2012

Rated D - Silver Linings Playbook

Are you ready for some football?!
Are you ready for some dancing? 
Are you ready for some mental illness?!

Welcome Back to Rated D!

This week we threw a huddle, fumbled our tickets, and touchdowned some tailgates so we could superbowl the new movie "Silver Linings Playbook".  (Impressed with the technical jargon?)  SPOILER ALERT:  A bipolar Bradley Cooper and severely depressed Jennifer Lawrence must work together to beat their afflictions and reacclimate themselves into society.  

So, just last week as I began to talk about all of the long anticipated, sweeping epics that would soon crowd your local multiplex, I happen to give in to my curiosity and check out this romantic-comedy-drama… and I am really happy that I did.

The movie’s premise is doomed to fail right out of the gate:  two uber-attractive people suffering from debilitating psychological and emotional trauma develop an unlikely relationship while practicing for… here’s the hook… a dance competition!  It’s like “Gigli 2: The Next Generation”.  If only…

But no, somehow… some way… it turns out to be one of the best movies of the year!

We kick off the story (where all hilarious films begin) in a mental institution in Philly with Pat, played by Bradley Cooper (The Hangover, Limitless), just being released into the custody of his parents.  With no verbal filter on top of near violent episodes triggered by the song “My Cheri, Amor”, it would be easy for us to grow instantly annoyed and unsympathetic to our main character, but Cooper’s maturity as an actor shines as he proves to be more than just a pretty face… and those eyes… those eyes…  wait…where am I… oh yes…

On top of his bipolar disorder, Pat’s life is complicated further by a restraining order from his estranged wife, tense interactions with stressed out friends, and a codependent relationship with his football fanatic father, played by Robert DeNiro (Casino, Meet the Parents).  DeNiro’s turn as an OCD bookie, playing off his own instabilities as rituals or superstitions, is engaging and sincere; as is the performance of his denial stricken wife, played by Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom, The Five-Year Engagement).  Weaver does an excellent job balancing the fragile-matriarchal strength and almost wishful obliviousness of her husband’s own afflictions. 

Then just as you wonder how the family will survive, Katniss volunteers for the Hunger Games with little more than a bow and arrow and a unbreakable spirit… uh… I mean, we meet the depressed, widow Tiffany, played by Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games, Winter’s Bone).  Though her tortured character can often times be harsh and selfish, Lawrence nails it, keeping us rooting for her while at the same time illustrating how complicated loss, love, and sex can be to one in such a dark state.

A sharply funny script from Director David O. Russell (The Fighter, I Heart Huckabees), who never lets the seriousness of mental illness become the punch-line, paired with the chemistry between Cooper and Lawrence really makes this unique, quirk filled film succeed.  Often times you find yourself laughing directly into a cringe-inducing argument, but things never go so far as to lose the audience to the dark side or downplay the severity of source material.

Like I said, it’s a film that by all means, shouldn’t work, yet somehow, it does and then some.  But maybe that’s like all recoveries and trying times; it never seem like it’s going to get better, but most of time, often inexplicably, it does.

D's Recommendation - 4 out of 5 – There’s something for everyone!  Football, dancing, and cringe-inducing psychotic episodes.

"Merry Christmas, Ya Filthy Animal"
Movies featuring Christmas and Action!

1.  Reindeer Games (2000) – Why did they let Poor Affleck join in these Reindeer Games?  I guess if you said it was an action packed heist flick with Gary Sinise, Ben Affleck, and Charlize Theron trying to rob a casino on Christmas, it would be hard to turn down.  Think of it as "Ocean's 11", only terrible.

2.  Batman Returns (1992) – Also known as The Last of the Mo-Keatons, and by 'also known as' I mean 'I call it that', this was Michael Keatons last portrayal of the Caped Crusader.  With the Penguin attacking Gotham, Catwoman terrorizing Batman, and Christopher Walken… just being Walken, it’s the perfect Christmas movie*! 

*From the Corrections Department:  It's a movie!

3.  Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang (2005) – If you haven’t seen this black-comedy-noir, detective flick with Robert Downey, Jr. and Val Kilmer, you don’t know what you’re missletoeing… that worked right?  This unconventional, oddball flick is as hilarious as it is a really fun mystery.

4.  Lethal Weapon (1987) – And eighteen years before "Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang", Writer Shane Black brought us this other fun Christmas action flick.  Think you’re too old for this $#!%, think again!  It’s a perfect example of what late eighties/early nineties action movies were all about:  one-liners, body counts, and Christmas time.  Speaking of which…

5.  Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990) – Probably the worst of the franchise… it certainly has the most naked bad guy practicing karate in the first few minutes of the film… but alas, it screams Christmas!  With crowded holiday travel, “Ode to Joy” looming under every scene, and a title which even translates from Russian into “A Hard Nut to Crack”, no holiday season is complete without a Yippee-Kay-Ay to us, everyone!

Rated DVD -
Ted -
I was skeptical to check out what I thought was going to be “Peter Griffin as a bear and Chris Griffin being played by Mark Wahlberg for two hours”, but I was pleasantly, if not extremely crassly, surprised.

When a little boys Christmas wish turns his Teddy Bear into a walking, talking best friend, life seems great… flash-forward a couple of decades and we see why no one talks about the sequel to The Velveteen Rabbit.  Essentially the movie becomes a familiar arrested development, raunchfest comedy with the same romantic plotlines and stakes, but Seth MacFarlane is as entertaining as always and that socially inept, foul-mouthed bear manages to crack you up consistently from start to finish. 

As with most MacFarlane and Wahlberg tales, the story takes place in New England  (Boston specifically) and therefore is filled with lots of fun regional jokes and jabs, but it’s still amusing for anyone who isn’t easily offended by some good ‘ol fashioned vulgarity.

Next Time on Rated D...
The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey Yeah, yeah, yeah… I’m getting to it.  I just haven’t had a spare sixteen hours to spare.

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