A Look Back: Silver Linings Playbook

After his last two movies – “Hit and Run,” and “The Words,” didn’t shine at the box office,  Bradley Cooper probably had his fingers crossed that “Silver Linings Playbook,” which came out later in that year, would prove true the adage that the third time is the charm. Indeed it was. “Silver Linings Playbook” is based on a book (which I haven’t read), but when it arrived on the big screen, it proved to be a mashup of several movie genres. In fact at times, it appeared to have Multiple Personality Disorder (fitting because the protagonist – Bradley – suffers from mental illness), veering from the “Troubled Young Man Gets Therapeutic Guidance,” to “Troubled Young Man Returns Home to Wacky Ethnic Clan,” to “Troubled Young Man Meets Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and Enters the Big Dance Contest Which is Inconveniently Held At the Same Time as Another Major Event in the Movie.” But, it has a lot of big stars and relies on tried-and-true (even if threadbare) scenarios, and so mostly works

The beginning of the movie strongly resembles “Garden Space,” as both protagonists (Bradley here, and Zach Braff in “GS”) return home as the prodigal son, who will shortly go off his meds (against advice) and remain off. But while Braff just had your stereotypical Distant Dad, Bradley has two concerned parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver), plus a brother (Shea Wigham). He also has a therapist (Anupam Kher) who wastes no time employing devious “therapeutic” techniques such as playing the same music that Bradley heard when he caught his wife (Brea Bee) with another guy, thus engaging in behavior that led to Brea getting a restraining order. (With shrinks like that, who needs enemies?) To round out the picture, Bradley has a loyal friend (Chris Tucker) who will later teach him the rhythm he needs to compete seriously in aforementioned dance contest, and the aforementioned MPDG (Jennifer Lawrence) who any sane viewer can see isn’t suitable, which makes the two, in movie terms, destined to be together.

Bradley and Jennifer spend most of the movie sparring and then making up, while Robert and his bookie friend make a complex bet which somehow entails Bradley getting a certain score in the dance contest. Of course, there are complications on the way to the competition, which involve Robert doing something even more devious than Anupam to ensure his son arrives there. (Spoiler: Pretending Brea will be there.) Surprisingly, it all works out in the end, and “Silver Linings Playbook,” deserves credit for (spoiler) not having the pair win the contest. But the viewer may be forgiven for wondering if the “cures” for Bradley’s ailments are not ultimately going to make him worse.









Movie Review: Burnt

I don’t know what this says about me, but watching “Burnt” I couldn’t help wishing there were more movies that had the guts for the protagonist not to ultimately reach his goal. Having a character do his or her best but not quite make it, would be the best argument for why it’s how you play the game, not if you win. Anyway, “Burnt” sticks to a traditional character arc, in which a former bad boy learns lessons about how “It’s not a sign of weakness to need people,” and thus grows up. There are decent performances, but no surprises plot-wise here.

In the movie, Bradley Cooper plays Adam Jones, a chef who is well-known both for his innovative approach to cuisine and his trainwreck of a history, which involves doing just about every drug invented, getting into brawls with his rivals after they both commit sabotage, and sleeping with all his female colleagues (including one who is a lesbian). To further ram home that Bradley’s a rebel without a cause, he’s seen zooming around on a motorcycle, when he’s not in the midst of a montage where he fondles meat. fruits and veggies. When we meet him, Bradley has begun to put his life back on track, including seeing a doctor who monitors his blood. The doctor/therapist is played by Emma Thompson, and the trailer made me think she was going to have a bigger role, but she is only in a few scenes. He’s also gone to work for a colleague he knows (Daniel Bruhl), a prissy maître-d who hires Bradley because he wants to impress his dying father (though there’s actually another reason). Now he has to deal with thugs who he still owes from his past, as well as a rival (Matthew Rhys), an attractive colleague (Sienna Miller), and the possibility of securing three Michelin stars.

At first, Bradley does not come off as that bad of a boss (in my view), but then someone removes the halibut from the pan a fraction of a second too late, and he flips out, making Steve Jobs, as recently portrayed by Michael Fassbender, look like a Care Bear.  Jobs might agree with Bradley’s character’s motto: “If it’s not perfect, throw it out,” but at least, he wasn’t shown hurling things at his hapless staff and forcing them to only answer with “Yes, (sir)” when especially peeved.  But of course, there is a reason why Bradley is a dick, and it has to do with his bad childhood. Fortunately, the drama is on whether or not Bradley will achieve the three star rating, and we barely learn anything about his childhood.  In the end, Bradley learns how to be a team player, achieves his goal and presumably lives happily ever after.  This seems to be due more to the Michelin rating than therapy, but hey, whatever floats your boat.