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Joe Stile | Amo

Crazy in love

Published: Thursday, February 7, 2013

Updated: Thursday, February 7, 2013 13:02

Silver Linings Playbook” (2012) is a problematic film. Its ending implies that love can cure mental illness and simplifies an often−complex situation to the point of marginalizing it. This is even more disappointing because of how effective the film is in its first two−thirds at treating the relationship between its main characters and the struggles they go through. It’s a cop−out for a happy and crowd−pleasing ending that undercuts a lot of what the film does bravely.

In earlier scenes that deal with Pat’s (Bradley Cooper) bipolar disorder, the film does a great job of showing the chaos slowly build before it finally becomes overwhelming and out of control. The camera work and use of music allow the viewer to intimately feel what Pat is going through, which makes his issues more understandable and the character more sympathetic, despite some of his erratic behavior. It’s a refreshing way for a mental disorder to be portrayed, as they are sadly often trivialized onscreen.

In addition to this, many other small−but−smart details make what the characters are dealing with feel realistic. Bits of dialogue hint at Pat and Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) having problems even before the more traumatic events of infidelity and the death of a spouse totally disrupt their respective lives. These incidents are triggers rather than causes of their illnesses, which allows for a more complex understanding of what people living with mental disorders go through for their entire lives.

Pat and Tiffany’s individual struggles add a lot to their relationship as well, and their scenes together gain a sort of suspense because of it. Viewers have seen them both say inappropriate things or go off at different times, and as their conversations start to tread on touchy subjects, it’s only a matter of time before someone is breaking plates and causing a scene. This tension gives their romance a slight edginess that other romantic comedies sorely lack. There is a creeping sense of dread that accompanies many of their scenes as it becomes clearer and clearer that something is about to happen.

While Cooper’s and Lawrence’s natural charms and onscreen chemistry make the viewer want them to get together, there still remains a slight hesitation about it. The characters may be right for each other, but they both have enough problems of their own that their relationship isn’t likely to be a smooth one. As the old saying goes: You can’t love someone until you can love yourself.

This is why the ending is so disappointing. A declaration of love and a dramatic kiss seem to be all that it takes to fix both of their problems. A final voice−over even lets the viewer know that they are living happily ever after together. Some clever lines, kinetic camera work and marvelous acting sell the ending way more than should be possible, but it still lessens the entire nuance that is put into the characters’ experiences up until this point.

It’s easy to understand why director David O. Russell would choose this kind of ending. After seeing these two charming people work so hard, the audience very much wants them to win and be happy. It’s unfortunate that Russell couldn’t figure out a way to give the audience that without marginalizing Pat and Tiffany’s illnesses in the process.

Despite the intriguing romance and solid character development throughout the beginning of the film, the Hollywood ending makes both life and love appear way easier than they are in reality, in the cheapest sort of way.


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