Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Very Good

Content written by Tony Macklin. Originally published on November 26, 2012 on tonymacklin.net.

Philadelphians are a breed apart. Nobody understands us.

Most people think we booed Santa Claus. We didn't boo Santa Claus.

We booed a 19-year old, 5' 6" kid with a fake beard who subbed, when the real Santa was stranded by a storm. We love Santa.

We abhor fraud.

But we are obsessed. Especially with our sports teams - the Eagles, Phillies, and Flyers.

We're also obsessed with Philadelphia food - cheesesteaks, scrapple, and Tastykakes.

When you make a movie set in Philly, you'd better get it right. Moviemakers dealing with Philly like to stretch reality - in Invincible (2006) they changed Vince Papale's recovery of a muffed punt to a long TD run, and in The Mighty Macs (2009) they added an African-American female player to a team that didn't have one. The latter was written by a Philadelphian sportscaster who should be ashamed of discarding authenticity.

If you are native New Yorker filmmakers invading Philadelphia to make your film, you have two problems. First, you are a New Yorker. Secondly, you aren't a Philadelphian.

Native New Yorker director David O. Russell and native New Yorker actor Robert De Niro - who oozes Tribecca pizza out of his pores - do their thing in Silver Linings Playbook.

Can New Yorkers and Philadelphians coexist?

Philadelphian Matthew Quick, who wrote the novel, and Philadelphian actor Bradley Cooper have to withstand the random slings and bent arrows of outrageous New Yorkers. Fly, Eagles, Fly.

Silver Linings Playbook is the saga of Pat Solatano (Bradley Cooper) who had "undiagnosed bipolarity." When he caught his wife in the shower in his home with a colleague, he brutally beat the man.

A plea bargain put him in a psychiatric facility in Baltimore. As the movie begins, Pat is released from the facility and his mother (Jacki Weaver) takes him to live with her and his dad, Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro).

Pat Sr. has lost his job and now is bookmaking. The men are all avid Eagles' fans - the mother acquiesces - wearing Eagles' regalia and holding tight to Eagles' memorabilia. Their home is a veritable Eagles aerie.

Even Pat's therapist (Anupam Kher) is an Eagles' fan. In the book, he is much more blatant. Remember, New York filmmakers, it's Philly,

After his release, Pat is obsessed with reuniting with his ex-wife Nikki (Brea Bee), who has a restraining order against him. Pat embraces a manic regimen of self-improvement and positive thinking in his quest to regain the woman whom he still considers his wife.

Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a psychologically-wounded widow. She is a fresh breath of Philly air - blunt, frank, and direct. Both she and Pat lack "social graces." She's also damaged mentally since her policeman husband was killed. Pat thinks she will help him get back with Nikki, and so they get in a symbiotic - but fitful - relationship.

Meanwhile Pat's superstitious dad is making big bets on the Eagles which could bring his world crashing down. It all comes down to an Eagles versus Dallas game and a dance competition. Will love of the Birds prevail?

Originally Mark Wahlberg - a Russell regular - and Anne Hathaway were going to star in Silver Linings Playbook. But Wahlberg had contract issues, and Hathaway made The Dark Knight Rises.

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence took their place. It was a fortunate substitution. Hathaway was terrific as Catwoman, but she doesn't have the spunk of Lawrence. And Wahlberg had already done the Eagles' scene as Vince Papale in Invincible (2006). New blood brought freshness.

Cooper and Lawrence have a unique chemistry, and seized the film as theirs. Even though there is a 15-year age gap between them - Cooper is 37, Lawrence 22 - they seem equals.

Actually while Cooper is twitching and De Niro is frowning, Lawrence runs off with much of the movie. She is an arresting mix of grit and glamour.

Bradley Cooper effects his cool sherbet stare, and De Niro has his patented down-to-earth presence. Jacki Weaver is appropriately low-key as the worried wife and mother. There's a lot of chaos around Delores. Russell has her wear a Kolb jersey. Kolb was a bum. Russell, you're killing us.

I share some common ground with Bradley Cooper. We both graduated from the same high school in Philadelphia - Germantown Academy. But he went there after the school was moved to Fort Washington, Pa. I'm old school.

We each went to Villanova, from which I graduated. But like Don McLean, Cooper bolted from Villanova. He went for a better education at Georgetown. How could Coop forsake the Palestra? I didn't. Like Jim Croce, I stayed. I published a novella, titled Palestra.

Villanovans got some revenge when the Wildcats beat the Hoyas for the NCAA championship in 1985. [I was in the last row behind the basket in Lexington.]

Cooper and I are both Capricorns, but I'm more of a goat than he is. As filmgoers know, he's the silky breed.

Cooper says he "loves the Eagles." I'm also wed to the Eagles, but love isn't in the equation. One of my best friends is Jim Murray, who is a former general manager of the Eagles. He once had me write an essay for the Eagles' yearbook.

I attended the heart-rending playoff loss to the Cardinals in Arizona in 2009. That was my last Eagles' game.

Director Russell wrested Quick's novel away from him and made it his own. Quick has said Russell didn't even talk to him until just before a screening. But he admires the movie.

Russell changed names. He changed the mother's name from Jeannie to Delores. Pat's surname in the novel is Peoples (which is nicely symbolic); Russell made it Solatano.

Names ending in O may especially appeal to Russell, since he was once married to Janet Grillo.

Russell makes a major change in Pat's stay in the psychiatric facility. Quick has him stay there for 4 years. Russell changes it to a mere 8 months.

But Eagles fans may have their greatest qualms about his changes concerning their beloved team.

Russell makes a crucial change in the team Eagles' jersey Pat loyally wears. In the novel he wears a Hank Baskett jersey. Baskett was an undrafted rookie. He became the first Eagle player to catch 2 TD passes longer than 80 yards in the same season. In the novel, Baskett is symbolic for Pat. Both Baskett and Pat have to go through a long evolution.

Russell changes the jersey to DeSean Jackson for no apparent reason. Maybe he's trying to exorcise the memory of how Jackson returned a punt for a TD at the end of a classic Eagles' comeback over the Giants. But the change in name only appears an attempt to make it more contemporary.

[Recently Jackson caught 2 passes for 5 yards. In the immortal words of Eagles' fans today, "Jackson sucks."]

Knowledgeable Eagles' fans also may find Russell's sense of history maddening. In one scene outside the Eagles' stadium, an Eagles fan is wearing an Asomagha jersey. It's the 2008 season, when McNabb and Westbrook were on the team. Asomagha wasn't.

In changing the Eagles' season from the book's 2006 to 2008 in his film, Russell also jerks the season around. The loss to the Giants, which is emphasized in the movie, was early in the season. The big Eagles' victory in New York, when Jackson ran back the punt for the winning TD, was late in the season. It is ignored in the film as though it never existed.

But Silver Linings Playbook transcends football. Is that possible in Philly?

Both Russell and De Niro have personal commitment to mental issues. Both have sons with bipolarity. They have given strong support to mental health schools and programs. For them, Silver Linings Playbook obviously is a labor of love.

But Philly also cares about its football.

In 2012, I'm sure Pat Sr. is suicidal as the season collapses. The iggles stink.

Eagles' fans, there is no Santa Claus. There's only another fake Santa.

Boooo.

There's no Silver Linings. There's no Playbook.

There is only crying in Philadelphia.


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