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Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

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Everyone of us is a little fucked up mentally. But Pat (Bradley Cooper) and Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) are two crazy people (quite literally) who are in weird situations. Pat has lost everything – his house, his job, his wife. He’s moved back in with his parents (played by Jacki Weaver and Robert DeNiro.) And he’s vowed to turn his life around and do anything to get his wife back. Then when Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a mysterious girl with troubles of her own, things get even weirder. And complicated. Tiffany offers to help Pat reconnect with his wife, but only if he’ll return the favour. As their deal plays out, an unexpected bond grows between them, and silver linings appear in both their lives. ‘

Actors Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence deserve a round of applause for their incredible performances in this movie. They both play people who have mental disabilities, albeit different kinds, and they do it convincingly. Cooper is the film’s greatest surprise – he evinces his character’s manic episodes with just the right amount of panic, fear and stress without ever overplaying his hand. However, it’s Lawrence’s turn that’ll have you talking as you exit the theatre. The young actress plays her character with an engaging aggressiveness that lets her dominate every scene she’s in, whether she’s wildly charging out of the side of the screen while Pat is on a run or shutting down Pat Sr. when he suggests that she is “bad juju” for the Eagles.

David O. Russel’s direction reflects the film’s themes and tones perfectly. He mixes tones brilliantly, and is able to orchestrate emotions with soft and jagged camera movement. Throughout the film he makes a point of having the camera come rushing up to actors until its right in their faces. It’s sometimes disorienting, but it creates an atmosphere for the movie and makes you feel as though you’re watching the story through the eyes of the characters.

There’s a thin line to walk when crafting a comedy film revolving around mental illness, to be sure. Going about it in the wrong way could not only result in something insensitive, but also foolish and overdone. But Russel didn’t let that happen.

Silver Linings Playbook is probably one of the most romantic modern films I’ve seen. The plot has a unique outlook, with interesting characters, it’s never overdone and it most definitely is not a typical love story. It has a subtle quirkiness to it that makes it seem that much more real and raw.

What I love most about this film: In the end, they fall “crazy in love” with each other. Get it?

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Milk (2008)

This film is so great and inspiring on so many levels in so many different ways.

(I know I’m a few years late in watching this, but it’s been on my list to watch and I finally did. Now I’m just trying to recommend it to people who still haven’t watched it yet, because it’s worth the time. It really has the power and ability to open the eyes of those who have no empathy towards, or feel indifferent about the gay community and their rights.)

It’s such a powerful movie and not only does it stick up for gay rights, it represents gays in a realistic way. This movie wasn’t scared to explore the many details of homosexuality, and I admired that.

One of the first scenes is the meet cute between Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) and Scott Smith (James Franco), where Harvey picks up Scott at a New York subway station. The mood of the moment, which ends up with the two men eating birthday cake in bed, is casual and sexy, and its flirtatious playfulness is somewhat disarming, given our expectation of a serious and important movie grounded in historical events.

But before that subway station encounter, we have already seen real-life news video of the aftermath of Milk’s assassination, as well as grainy photographs of gay men being rounded up by the police. These images don’t spoil the intimacy between Harvey the buttoned-up businessman and Scott Smith, the hippie who becomes his live-in lover and first campaign manager. Rather, the constant risk of harassment, humiliation and violence is the defining context of that intimacy.

And his refusal to accept this as a fact of life, his insistence on being who he is without secrecy or shame, is what turns Milk from a bohemian camera store owner, into a political leader.

James Franco was wonderful. He played a gay man, while not overdoing it. He played a realistic gay man. He made sure it was believable.

But I have to say, the man who stole the show was definitely none other than Sean Penn. His performance was breathtaking. He presented a gay man while conveying the message he was a powerful political leader, standing up not only for the gay community, but for the black community, the asian community, latino, homeless, senior citizens, and all minorities.

Overall, this movie definitely pulls at the heart strings. It covers so many social issues at once, and has a powerful aspect throughout the film. That power lies in its uncanny balancing of nuance and scale, its ability to be about nearly everything — love, death, politics, sex, modernity — without losing sight of the intimate particulars of its story. Harvey Milk was an intriguing, inspiring figure. “Milk” is a marvel.

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