Silver Linings Playbook
Last week, I watched a Thomas Kinkade movie on Netflix. I wanted to watch a Christmas movie that the kids could also watch. It was painful to watch, from the script to the acting. I kept expecting Kirk Cameron to show up. Topics of family, faith, hope, love, community, etc...can all be explored without being relegated to an artificial, superficial, sanitized environment. People will be more affected when they can recognize elements of beauty and truth amidst reality that is familiar to them. They can relate to it and are more likely to seek those things in their own very real worlds. After watching The Christmas Lodge, I was ready for something real and something well-done.
The trailer for Silver Linings Playbook drew me in after a friend recommended it and then I found out that the director is David O. Russell, who also directed the wonderful movie, The Fighter. Not only did Russell direct this movie, but he also wrote the screenplay, adapted from the novel by the same name. This movie hits every mark: acting, screenplay, and editing. Bradley Cooper is Pat, a substitute teacher who has just been released from an 8-month stay in a mental hospital. His sentence was part of a plea bargain after he attacked a man with whom is wife was having an affair. After his return home, he meets Tiffany, played by Jennifer Lawrence, who challenges him and ends up being a part of his healing strategy. Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver play Pat's parents beautifully. This is some of De Niro's finest work. He plays a role that requires such authenticity in a subtle manner.
Like The Fighter, this movie is set in a working class community and it is real. Russell based the character, Pat, on his own son and manages to portray a family dealing with issues such as OCD and bi-polar disorder with compassion and truth. This is a real family, with real issues and dysfunction, yet they still manage to find a way to function. I didn't want to leave them when the movie ended. There is still love. And at the end of this movie, there is hope, a silver lining.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Months ago, British actor Tom Hiddleston began praising this movie on Twitter. He used words like "poetic" and "beautiful" to describe it and encouraged everyone to see it. Last week, blogger Elizabeth Duffy called Beasts the best movie of 2012 and could only say that it was unlike anything she'd seen before and that it was hard to describe. I have to agree completely with both of these people, whose opinions about things literary and cinematic I greatly respect.
It is labeled Fantasy, but even that is hard to explain, as it almost seems to need its own unique genre. It is set in the low-lighing bayou community called The Bathtub, located outside of the levy system that protects the city dwellers. This fictional community is clearly of a Louisiana flavor, from the music, to the accents and the foods. The fantastical setting feels like home to me.
The story centers around a little girl named Hushpuppy, beautifully portrayed by Quvenzhane Wallis, a Louisiana native who made her film debut with this role. Hushpuppy is so in tune with the universe and its inhabitants that she can see its elements and all the connections formed between. You fall in love with this spunky girl, even though spunky is too ordinary--too cliched-- a term for her. The director said that after her audition, he tweaked the script to fit her and we are the beneficiaries of that effort. I will never look at a basketball jersey the same way.
Furthermore, as a Louisiana native, I enjoyed seeing amongst the staff in the credits the title: Nutria Expert. That's just awesomeness, cher. I suspect this is a movie which will inspire pendulum reactions: you will either love it or walk away, scratching your head, wondering what others saw. Give it a chance, though, and allow yourself to float away, along with Hushpuppy, into her fantastical, albeit harsh, environment.
Battle of Britain
This is a well-done documentary that the whole family can enjoy. It is an important part of our history, too, as those brave British pilots kept the Nazis from invading Britain, in an effort that still seems totally impossible on paper.
Battle of Britain is available on Netflix Instant Streaming and for purchase on Amazon.com.