0 - No Redeeming Feature
1 - Poor
2 - Passable
3 - Good. Rent it.
4 - Full Price
5 - Must See!
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
The film centres around Pat, who suffers a bipolar disorder and who has, due to an unfortunate incident involving his wife and her lover, recently spent eight months rehabilitating at a facility. He is brought home to live with his parents while he gets back on his feet, but is convinced he can make contact with his wife by means of a letter and that everything will be back to how it was, despite the fact she has had a restraining order taken out against him.. Exactly as you might expect from the synopsis, it is very much a story which, in the wrong hands, could have become a debacle of bad taste; as it is, Russell marshals it all rather well and creates a solid, engaging drama.
It is also a film that seems determined to defy quite a lot of convention; just as you suspect certain plot points or moments are about to go one way, some might say the Hollywood way, it in fact goes somewhere else, on one hand surprising you, and on another carving a deeper sense of empathy and realism. To cite examples, watch out for a scene in which Pat gets into a real physical fight with his father, or his discussions with his therapist; moments like these, due to their sense of realism, engage you all the more with the characters, and make them so much more than mildly humorous cliches. It does, of course, go into Hollywood land eventually, but by this point, such has been the good judgement of the movie in nearly every way, you find yourself enjoying it rather than being cynical. De Niro's reaction to the "big moment" in the finale, as well as the moment itself, is so wonderfully, awkwardly, and realistically amusing, it is one of a few genuine laugh-out-loud moments, and the scene also features possibly my favourite line in the movie, by an extra, no less!
For me, one of the big surprises of 2012, and in the strangest way, the best feel-good film I have seen for some time, Silver Linings Playbook is an engaging, well-crafted piece of storytelling. Some of its ideas are ultimately a bit above its station, but it is still a wonderful two hours.
At cinemas now
Catch it if you like: Good Will Hunting, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.
The film has a stunning score, which is arguably the best thing about it. Sounding like Hans Zimmer half asleep, its haunting nature captures perfectly the sad tone of disconnection, loneliness, and ultimately the apparent futility of the effort to change the situation.
McQueen has an undeniable eye for excellent composition, which is no surprise; as an artist he has a keen understanding of how powerful an image can be, how one tableau can speak a hundred words, and that is very obvious throughout. The whole thing is shot with they eye of a man who is first and foremost an artist, so there is no denying the film's urban beauty. Such is his insistence, however, on getting across the points through visuals and long, protracted scenes in which so much is unsaid, or so much is about the internal, and which sometimes border on overdone, that I found myself often realizing I might do just as well to read a memoir of this man, rather than watch it be played out. It looks and feels like a book. In terms of the story unfolding, it does so in quite a stagy way at times, and this highlights an issue McQueen has not really overcome with either film, which is his inability to drive forward with a narrative. His desire to put individual scenes together and create moments is a priority, and so the drive of the film seems laboured. This said, staging of said moments is impressive, much of the film having an almost Kubrick feel of precision, keeping us intentionally somewhat removed from the characters, which, given the subject matter, brings about an obvious comparison to Eyes Wide Shut. This is true for all scenes barring one towards the end, which seems decidedly unrealistic; set against the impressive realism of the rest of the film, this was strange and took me out of it.
I consider Shame rather flawed, and can't say I liked it, yet I found it compelling and moving; in this way it is a strange movie to pass a clear verdict on. McQueen is very confident in his transition to film; his work thus far is admirable and does have a power, but in the end Shame equals, for me, less than the sum of its parts. To each their own, of course, but I would suggest you can see some similar issues tackled, with perhaps more narrative flow, and far less handsomely, in work like Intimacy with Mark Rylance and Kerry Fox, and Open Your Eyes with Clive Owen and Alan Rickman.
On DVD/Blu-Ray now.
Catch it if you like: Eyes Wide Shut, Hunger, Intimacy, Open Your Eyes.
Unlike Baz Luhrmann's bombastic take on the star-crossed lovers, Coriolanus is treated with a far sterner hand; you can almost feel Feinnes scowling from behind, as well as in front of, the camera! What a performance he gives, though, intense and frightening on one hand, spitting the vitriolic monologues with relish, yet just as convincing when playing sheepish and pathetic under his mother's authority. If you like to hear this stuff acted out, this is definitely a treat of a movie. The reason for the firm handling is, of course, that this play has no sense of frivolity or fun about it; this is an all round meaner piece about social upheaval, prompted by a Roman warrior who is too proud of his position to care about being a voice for the common man. The commoners revolt and banish him from Rome, we see his loyalties easily corrupted by his pride, and we watch him turn to his life-long enemy in order that he may attack his people. The tension heightens, and we cannot help but understand Feinnes' choice to make it; one cannot fail to see its relevance today. The inclusion of familiar BBC faces playing their part as news readers and talking heads in the piece is a smart move, really bringing the drama into modern day and making it feel all the more familiar and relevant.
On DVD/Blu-Ray now.