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Silver Linings Playbook

‘Silver Linings Playbook’ shows how far cinematic story-telling has progressed with its’ depiction of mental illness becoming open and honest. This more truthful exploration of issues has often led to some engaging films.  ‘Playbook’ is one of them as it successfully mixes humour and drama.  This allows for true empathy with its well-drawn characters as they attempt to overcome their various fragmented emotional states.

 

Dealing with a bipolar disorder, Pat (Bradley Cooper) is released from a mental home.  Put in charge of his parents Pat Snr (Robert DeNiro) and Dolores (Jacki Weaver), he tries to re-establish his life.  When he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a young lady with her own demons, he thinks he is on the right path.  Beginning a strange romance, their courtship is hindered by Pat’s ex-wife and others not realising how bright their flame burns.

 

Although featuring characters wallowing in self-inflicted misery, ‘Playbook’ is actually director David O. Russell’s most optimistic movie.  Everyone is fractured somehow from Pat’s obsessive behaviour, his father’s gambling addiction and Tiffany’s mourning for lost love.  Yet all of them are so determined to find that elusive ‘silver lining’ their quest does more harm than good.  Only when they don’t try so hard in having a ‘happy ending’ can they truly succeed – something coming across very effectively.

 

The cast are first rate with Cooper and Lawrence making their roles sympathetic.  You really shouldn’t warm to their characters but you do with some relatable traits making their problems feel genuine.  De Niro and Weaver are great as Pat’s desperate parents – longing for an unattainable version of a picturesque family.  Their performances are underscored by the deft mix of pathos and comedy naturally arising from situations.  Whilst moments adhere to clichéd romantic-comedy formula, it has enough of its own energy making it unique.

 

A well-acted and scripted work, ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ thrives on its authenticity.  That it remains consistently absorbing with such a tough subject matter is a good mark against a production striving for quality.

 

Rating out of 10:  7

Django Unchained

‘Django Unchained’ proves a point in telling cinematic stories.   Knowing how to tell them in an engrossing way within a reasonable time-frame ensures its main focus is never lost.  Director Quentin Tarantino had this ability when he scored big with ‘Reservoir Dogs’ over twenty years ago.  Sadly his latest finds him losing his story-telling mojo.  This doesn’t mean it’s bad by any means, it’s just his ode to Westerns loses much impact over its gargantuan running time.

 

Freed from slavery by bounty hunter King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), Django (Jamie Foxx) sets out on a mission.  Determined to find his wife - now the slave of wealthy plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) - he enlists Schultz’s help.  Entering the abode of Candie’s formidable mansion, vengeance drives Django.  What ensues is a bloody game of brinkmanship where not many make it out alive.

 

Despite being too long and frequently self-indulgent ‘Django’ has a lot going for it.  Apart from a great cast, it mimics the classic Western-style to fine effect.  Not for a moment do we forget it’s a Tarantino movie however, with its ultra-savage veneer a perfect fit for his brand of quirky film-making.  This is basically his version of a Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western – complete with booming orchestral score.

 

The cinematography aids this retro-imagining by capturing the dangerous realm the characters inhabit with starkness.  It’s just a shame ‘Django’s tale of violent revenge is let down by the editing.  There really isn’t enough plot to sustain the unwieldy length with the admittedly well-written monologues becoming tiresome.  The action, when it eventually arrives, is suitably amazing but it’s a chore reaching those points.

 

Mixing humour with violence may be a dubious tactic although it’s something Tarantino has built his career on.  ‘Django’ has lots of it and while not as good as his earlier works in terms of expressing its tale its vision of wild-west lawlessness is filled with several savagely memorable moments.

 

Rating out of 10:  7