I was thinking this morning about the influence of the late Elmore Leonard, particularly the way the late crime novelist would occasionally put the article or main object at the end of a sentence. Which seemed odd to English composition teachers and…well, to me also, at first, but then I got used to it. And then it seemed a little odd when dialogue didn’t do that.
I’m mentioning this because it was almost exactly a year ago (i.e., at the 2012 Toronto Film Festival) when I noticed an Elmore sentence in Silver Linings Playbook.
Neurotic dad Robert De Niro is pleading with local cop Dash Mihok to not escort manic-eccentric Chris Tucker “back to Baltimore” until the Eagles game is over. “What’s the problem?,” De Niro says, clutching his green Eagles handkerchief. “He’s not goin’ anywhere. Just let him finish the game, that’s all. The handkerchief is working. We’re killing the Seahawks, twenty-seven-ten. What’s the matter with you? Let him stay, please!” And Mihok says, “I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, ‘the handkerchief’. And I’m glad that the Seahawks are losing and we’re winning, but I gotta take Danny McDaniels back to Baltimore, alright? He can contest his case from Baltimore.”
I believe that without Elmore Leonard, Mihok would have used a more conventional sentence structure and said “I don’t know what your handkerchief has to do with it” or “What do you mean ‘handkerchief?'” or something along those lines. Screenwriter David O. Russell would not have put the article at the end — “I don’t know what you’re talking about, ‘the handkerchief.'” Just saying.
The responses to this riff, I realize, will have nothing to do with Leonard and everything to do with how much this or that pisshead hates Silver Linings Playbook. But that rant is history now. It was a peculiar thing to feel or say in the first place. SLP was and is brilliant. It resonated all over the place with sophistos and Average Joes alike, and it made $132 million theatrically — fuck-you money as far as the naysayers are concerned. It should have won the Best Picture Oscar, and it would have if hadn’t been for the votes taken away by the respectable but tedious Lincoln.