At first it seemed as if the ranks of Silver Linings haters were extremely marginal if not microscopic, like the carriers of an extremely rare disease. But others have pushed through (notably and bizarrely New Yorker critic David Denby, whose brief pan of David O. Russell‘s film is roughly similar to Bosley Crowther‘s dismissal of Dr. Strangelove), and with, it has to be acknowledged, remarkable levels of battery acid.
One in ten reviewers, I’d say, are in the hater camp. Their stuff reads like Sean Hannity rants on Fox News. Never have so few worked so hard and whipped themselves into such a strange lather about such an expertly assembled, deceptively good-timey, emotionally grounded, once-in-a-blue-moon payoff film.
The haters know SLP is nudging a 90% Rotten Tomatoes approval and is made of the stuff that works with people who are open to its manic charms and currents so they’re focusing on trying to wound its award potential. Their need to take this extraordinary effort down is, I feel, far more pathological than my mostly respectful and fair-minded remarks about Steven Spielberg‘s Lincoln.
I’ve recognized all along that Silver Linings Playbook winning the Best Picture Oscar is unlikely given the general prejudice against comedies or spirited dramedies (regardless of whatever emotional truths, heart, edge and wit they may deliver), but the sentiments of the anonymous secreter known as Oscar Tipster…words fail. Guys like this are actually walking around.
Some are having problems with the treatment of mental illness or the hyper personality of Bradley Cooper‘s Pat Solitano during the first half. Cole Smithey called it “a Hollywood romantic comedy made to mask the horrific downside of mental illness while still giving the audience a little sense of superiority as they walk out of the cinema.” Russell has a son with Asperger’s Syndrome. Think about that for five or six seconds.
But primarily the haters seem locked into the idea, to paraphrase Rotten Tomatoes fan reviewer Nate Zoebl, that enjoyment and creative accomplishment are, in fact, opposing forces and that being a rousing, crowd-pleasing sort of movie is, in fact, a yoke that weighs down its artistic integrity. Tell that to The Lady Eve, The Awful Truth, Bringing Up Baby, My Man Godfrey and Some Like It Hot.
The key thing, of course, is that Silver Linings Playbook is offering a lot more than just feelgood vibes, and if that’s all you’re getting from it, God fucking help you and any kids you might have. Repeating from 11.16: “The real lame-itude is dismissing or marginalizing a film because it’s buoyant and screwball-intense and furiously spirited and is all about want and need and dealing with recognizable demons, and is therefore not the equal of more steadily (or more slowly) paced solemn-attitude Best Picture contenders that are about real pain, real loss and are therefore truly serious.”
Denby actually called SLP “pretty much a miscalculation from beginning to end…it just feels worked up — an exercise in which actors can blow off steam.”
I don’t believe that many more people are on my side of the fence — I know it. I know that guys like =Detroit News critic Tom Long, who writes plainly and frankly, know whereof they speak. But what a gulf between the camps.
“It’s your boy-meets-girl formula at heart,” Zoebl wrote on 11.21, “but the execution is so extremely sure-footed, so exceptionally handled, that the movie leaves you buzzy and beaming. Once it ended, I wanted to run around, shouting from the rooftops for people to run out and see this movie. I freely admit that Silver Linings Playbook is a masterful movie that knows what it takes to get an audience cheering, and I was thrilled to be part of that cheering throng. Here is a movie that just makes you feel good. I was so happy after my screening that it felt like a high I didn’t want to come down from.”