I’m a member of Bafta. This means that, around Christmas time, I get movie screeners – for ‘my consideration’.
It’s quite interesting seeing what movies the studios think should be deserving of an award. We get sent things like The Hobbit, but would never see Jack Reacher or This is 40 (which is what I’d actually like to see). Still, we do get quite a lot of great movies to watch, and sometimes stuff I’d never pay to see at a movie theater.
Silver Linings Playbook is one such movie. It stars Bradley Cooper, and I have to admit I’m a bit of a Bradley Cooper fan boi – even as far back as Alias, where he got his start.
And generally, I think he’s chosen projects that are compelling and good vehicles for him – until now at least.
So lets get the review out of the way. Silver Linings Playbook is not a good film. Why anyone would imagine this is deserving of an award is beyond me. Technically, it’s badly made. The editing is terrible – some scenes start literally as someone shouted action, and suddenly every one moves with that terrible artificial purpose. The camera work is beyond understanding – technically it’s ok, but in terms of direction it’s unfocussed and breaks camera positioning rules without understandingwhy those rules exist in the first place. You can only break the rules effectively when you understand under what circumstances you should do so – the director here – David O. Russell – clearly does not. The whole thing looks very like ‘Movie Students First Movie Out of Movie School”. There are elementary mistakes, continuity mistakes, terrible direction, scenes included that do not progress the story, or, indeed, make much sense at all.
And further to this, the combination of writer/director here means that not only we don’t get good camera direction, we get incredibly stilted and unbelievable dialog. The principle characters actually sit down and explain the back ground of the movie to other characters who plainly already know all this stuff, and as a result, it’s a very obvious attempt to give background when there are plainly better ways to do it. I can’t honestly believe that Bradley Cooper wouldn’t have seen that in the script, but that probably gave way to the fact that Robert DeNiro is in this movie. I’ve _got_ to believe that the reason Bradely Cooper attached himself to this was because of Robert DeNiro. Which does beg the question of why Robert DeNiro is in this movie. I can only imagine he owes someone a favor, or they have pictures of him having sex with a horse – one or the other.
DeNiro basically phones in the Angry/Bewildered Dad dialog and has a bunch of fairly normal but relatively pointless exchanges with other characters. It’s a shame because he’s way better than this.
But you know what? I could forgive all of that if the movie were interesting. Unfortunately, it just isn’t that interesting. The characters are definitely ‘real’, but ultimately fairly predictable and just not people that induces emotion on your part, except for repeated glancing at the watch to see how much longer the movie is going to be on for.
The fact is that Bradley Cooper does his best with his mentally-unbalanced-but-holding-on-purely-through-his-own-delusions-about-his-future-with-his-exwife character, but ultimately the character arc just isn’t interesting enough to make you care enough, certainly not to overlook all of the other issues with this movie.
That’s not to say there aren’t some interesting scenes – the whole Hemmingway-book-at-4am thing was quite fun – but it’s just not enough to save what is effectively a pretty tedious and not-well made movie.
Then you put on Lincoln and wow, the flaws in this movie suddenly get magnified 10x. Which isn’t really fair, but as a movie watcher, I judge it my job to watch a movie and get involved. If you haven’t grabbed me 20 mins in, then you may well have made the movie YOU wanted to make, but you certainly haven’t made one _I_ want to see, and I would consider that a failure on your part.