The best scene from Silver Linings Playbook was the montage featuring "Girl From The North Country," by Bob Dylan, and sung by Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. Listen to the song, and feel sad, or wistful, or peaceful, or all of those things at once:
I had no plans to see the film. My impression from the previews was that it was another story about an asshole-ish but secretly good-hearted straight, white male who confronts but then overcomes personal adversity and is thusly rewarded sex and sometime love with a lithe, young, beautiful woman. And you know? I am SO TIRED of that movie. NINETY PERCENT OF HOLLYWOOD IS THAT FUCKING MOVIE. (And/or the tamer version of that, featuring the non-asshole-ish straight, white male who confronts adversity and is rewarded a young, beautiful woman for his efforts.) The fact that it stars Bradley Cooper, who's been on something of a run of playing arrogant, handsome assholes, for whose success filmmakers nonsensically assume I want to cheer, didn't help. Also, I strongly disapprove with the annoyingly common "love interest" pairing of male actors with much-younger female actors. Jennifer Lawrence is 22-years old, to Bradley Cooper's 37. Apparently, the director was hesitant to hire Lawrence because of her age, but then he was ultimately convinced by her audition.
It is much easier (unsurprisingly!) to be convinced that choosing the sexist option - inevitably the one that makes everyone more comfortable - is preferable to choosing the equal option. (And that basically applies to many things in this world that could be better if more people would be braver - the "maiden"-name issue is a wildly valid example.) It makes audiences more comfortable to watch young, beautiful women in their 20s be "the love interest," than to watch this role played by any other type of woman. (Which is the reason for at least half of the criticism of "Girls" and Lena Dunham herself.) And Yes, there are a few women in their 30s, and fewer in their 40s, and so on, who have managed to thrive in their careers. But they are exception. If you're skeptical about my point, just compare the list of credits for female actors in films from say, twenty years ago, with their male counterparts.
Finally, the title sounded gross. Like a twee and ironic that attempt to be life-affirming, wrapped up in a slick, emotionally contrived package. "Crazy, Stupid, Love?" (Ugh), "The Bucket List?" (IT WILL BE FUNNY IN ITS BLUNTNESS BUT ALSO TOUCHING AND SAD)," "The Art of Getting By?!" (eff off). ...But eventually I noticed that Silver Linings Playbook had attracted Oscar Buzz ("Because it's being released during awards season?") I read that it is directed by David O. Russell (Three Kings, I ♥ Huckabees, The Fighter). Then the damn thing went and got nominated for a bunch of Academy Awards. So. Fine. I would see it.
Silver Linings Playbook is like that off-kilter romantic comedy-type of film that we've seen over and over again. Only in this film, every moment in the which the story has the opportunity to be a clichéd rom-com, it takes a different turn. There are points of alarm: the estranged wife cheated on the main character and the love interest is described in Wikipedia as a "recovering sex addict." But the film makes it clear that Cooper's character, Pat, and his estranged wife, Nikki, had a sort-of terrible marriage, which doesn't make it surprising that one of the couple would seek happiness elsewhere. And NO WHERE in the film is Tiffany (the love interest, Jennifer Lawrence) referred to as a "sex addict." After meeting her, and hearing her sexual escapades, which are clearly the result grief and mourning for her late husband, Pat judges her and calls her nasty names, and she quite rightly berates him for it.
Depictions of judgement of women over sex, though, are different when consumed by Feminists, as opposed to other people. If I have to talk to someone who describes the estranged wife as "fuckin' bitch" for cheating on the poor, handsome, straight, white male who was obviously mentally unstable and determined to not seek help for it, or who describes Tiffany as a "fuckin' bitch" after she screams at the poor, handsome, straight, white male who has just called her a slut, I will feel less kind and understanding toward this movie. I think films should tread these waters carefully. It's not that filmmakers must hold the hand of the audience. ...Or maybe I do think filmmakers should hold the hands of audiences. All I know, is that even people with college degrees in the arts and/or who are lovers of film and art will discuss the symbolic and cultural commentary of a film 'til the fucking cows come home - until you point out things about the film's ideology that are blazingly sexist, and then it's just a coincidence that this specific thing is what the filmmakers chose to use to demonstrate that a character is an asshole! It's not that the film itself supports that sexist point of view! Or that what they're saying is even sexist AT ALL!
(Ahem. The second part of the paragraph above is a bit of a digression.)
The main action of the film revolves around Pat's journey to overcome his bi-polar disorder and to eventually win back his estranged wife. We learn that mental issues run in the family; Pat's father, portrayed by Robert DeNiro, has OCD, and is convinced that Pat's presence is a lucky charm for the Philadelphia Eagles. Tiffany has suffered from depression, and as I referred to above, is recovering from the death of her husband. They meet, and she harasses him into being friends with her. Bradley Cooper was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar, and after watching the film, I am impressed with his range, and agree that the performance was nomination-worthy. Without giving up the ending, though I think the film was well-done, the ability of two people who are each struggling with their own mental well-being, to help each other, as if one disorder cancels out the other, is worthy of discussion.
One final thing that I appreciated in the film, were the pissy descriptions by Pat and Tiffany, respectively, of A Farewell To Arms and Lord of the Flies. Teehee.