Last night the Santa Barbara Film Festival had a special 10-years-after screening of Silver Linings Playbook, the greatest, funniest and edgiest feel-good romcom of the 21st Century. And then SBIFF honcho Roger Durling interviewed director David O. Russell and editor Jay Cassidy.
And the whole night was beautiful — re-watching it, listening to David and Jay’s recollections, recalling that big Toronto Film Festival debut and the Soho House after-party, and what a truly happy time 2012 was for Hollywood Elsewhere (and perhaps for millions of others)…a glorious feeling of engagement, flush wellness, reasonably high spirits and casual bon ami with everyone…Barack Obama was running for re-election and it was five or six years before woke horror…the terror!…descended and turned Hollywood life into a kind of early 1950s Commie-purge nightmare.
I wanted to speak with DOR at the after-party and share and radiate the usual usual, but somehow I sensed that strolling over and saying “hey, David” might not be a great idea. Tiny little needles were telling me that. Russell was friendly ten years ago, but he sure wasn’t last night. But it was mostly me. I’m funny that way. There’s a part of me that doesn’t feel all that good about social engagement…a part that would prefer to just go home and write about stuff and shine the face-time.
If I had manned up and managed to speak with Russell, you know what I might have asked him? Danny Elfman‘s Silver Linings score is one of the greatest ever composed, and I’m sure Russell agreeds with me. But you know what I might have asked about? His reaction to those recent photos of Mrs. Danny Elfman.
I know — stupid idea. It goes without saying that his response would have been totally private, but he wouldn’t have responded anyway because questions like that are out of bounds when it comes to chatting with someone like myself. I understand that, of course. But everyone was talking about it, and you know that Russell and his colleagues had reactions. This is why I don’t like going up to famous guys. Because certain things I might want to discuss would be “off-limits” (i.e., the famous guy would be afraid to share an honest opinion) and it’s like this weird dance…mention this but don’t mention that, and keep in mind which subjects are okay to mention and blah-dee-blah. It’s exhausting.
I still seethe, by the way, when I think back to the HE hate chorus that went after SLP, and the many hours I spent arguing with them and telling them how completely full-of-shit they were.
HE response: “I’ve never called Silver Linings Playbook a romantic comedy, although it is comedic and unmistakably romantic at the end, and it does, to its detractors’ discomfort, use a familiar and formulaic romcom-type ending (although David O. Russell shapes and renders it in a novel, engaging, live-wire way). It’s a much smarter and deeper thing than your typical Kate Hudson or Katherine Heigel film, for sure, and much more skillfully made. But you wouldn’t be wildly off if you called it a ‘romantic comedy.’
“I would call Silver Linings a manic romantic dramedy about anxiety, obsession, family and sports-betting superstition. It obviously doesn’t walk or talk and go for the easy-lay emotion like the other romcoms, but it’s certainly an oddball cousin in the family.
“Which is why I find it staggering that Vulture‘s Claude Brodesser-Akner posted a piece today called ‘Can the Romantic Comedy Be Saved?,’ and he didn’t even MENTION Silver Linings Playbook.
“My first thought after I caught SLP in Toronto was ‘finally, a romantic comedy that I can not only stand but I actually like…this is how they should be made!” Brodesser-Akner could have disagreed and written that SLP actually isn’t a romcom and explained why, or mentioned it as a genre outlier or whatnot. But he doesn’t even acknowledge its EXISTENCE.
“To Brodesser-Akner SLP is so far outside the bounds of what a romantic comedy is that he doesn’t even acknowledge that Russell’s film at least vaguely qualifies for the reasons I mentioned above. He doesn’t even bring it up for the purpose of dismissing it. Amazing! Because he’s dead blind.”