(Warning! There be spoilers ahead. Don’t read if you haven’t seen Silver Lining Playbook.)
I loved Flirting With Disaster. (free streaming with Amazon Prime at the moment) I thought it was great because, obviously: Patricia Arquette, Téa Leoni, Ben Stiller on a good day.
Three Kings was phenomenally good! (sadly, no streaming at all at the moment) But how could it not be? I mean, George Clooney! Mark Wahlberg! Ice Cube! fantastic performances, and an amazing anti-war movie marketed as good, old-fashioned blow-everything-to-hell entertainment.
I’ve just watched Silver Linings Playbook for about the fourth time, and I’m adding it to the David O. Russell-is-fabu pile. Sure, it’s got fabulous actors. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are wonderful, and Robert De Niro is … Robert De Niro.
But in the hands of a different director, I wonder if this movie – any of these movies – would be so great. Russell trusts his audience’s intelligence. He doesn’t shove stuff in your face. He lays out all the parts of the story like lace and lets us discover how things are interconnected, spot the frills and the matrices.
And the embellishing tones. In the case of Silver Linings Playbook (spoiler coming), Bradley Cooper’s character Pat is obsessed with getting his wife Nikki back. To him, she’s the perfect woman, and theirs is the perfect love. When he meets Jennifer Lawrence’s Tiffany, she challenges everything he thinks about what’s true. It’s particularly scary that he’s fascinated and delighted by the fact that she has no problem talking about sex.
She tells him about a sexual encounter she had with a woman and how the woman had Tiffany sit on her lap and “do things.” Pat obviously enjoys hearing the story, but then he comments that Nikki would never approve of talk like that.
blah, blah, blah … many scenes about self-denial, obsession, leading to trauma, risk, new choices, self-discovery and happiness.
And at the very end of the movie, Russell plays a little note that I didn’t catch until the fourth viewing. The family is all together, it’s happy days, Mom is making crabby snacks and homemades, the game is about to start, and all is well with the world.
And Tiffany sits on Pat’s lap and with happy, easy smiles they kiss.
No big deal. You can miss it if you’re not thinking about it. But that act is what tells us it’s going to be okay. Russell doesn’t hit us over the hit with it. He doesn’t have the characters say anything about “come sit on my lap” “oh, ha, ha.” It’s just a matter-of-course, lovely bit.
And why I’ll watch anything David O. Russell makes.