25th Anniversary

What is it the 25th anniversary of, you ask? Nothing! Well, that's not true; I'm sure plenty happened 25 years ago. But the only reason that this particular entry has that heading is because I randomly happened to wrap up two things today with "Silver" in their titles.

If I'm going to be in fighting weight for this year's Oscar contest, I have to get more of the Best Picture nominees under my belt, so when I found myself with a free evening last night, I seized the opportunity to wander up to the Hi-Pointe to catch a screening of Silver Linings Playbook. It's one of those films I'm still mulling over a day later, which is always a good thing. Bradley Cooper, who stars as Pat, a bipolar man fresh out of the asylum and attempting to rebuild his life and marriage. Along the way, he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who is skirting around some mental issues of her own, and the two forge a volatile friendship.

Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver appear as Pat's parents, and are often at sea as to how to deal with their son's violent outbursts and unreasonable demands on their attention. That doesn't mean Pat is the only one in the family with issues, though, as we see glimmers of some of his father's compulsions and mother's insistence that there isn't any problem that can't be solved with snacks.

I liked this film a lot, and it's easy to see why all four of its leads are up for Academy Awards this year. Bradley Cooper has never been better, and Jennifer Lawrence somehow manages to portray a person damaged in all sorts of stereotypical ways without coming across as stereotypical in the least. There are a few minor third act issues, and the ending is a bit too tidy, but of the four Best Picture nominees I've seen so far, this is easily my favorite.

Over in the world of books, I finished up Tayari Jones' Silver Sparrow, which I'd never have come across, but for a recommendation from a friend. Like Silver Linings Playbook, it's much more a character study than a plot-driven story. The book is told as reminiscences from two women (Dana and Chaurisse) who met and became friends in their teen years. One of the girls knows that the two share a bigamist father, and she's hurt and curious about why she cannot be publicly acknowledged. She starts poking around in her father's "real" family by befriending her blissfully ignorant half-sister, and when the secrets inevitably are brought to light, the delicate house of cards built over the girls' lifetimes crumbles in an instant.

The entire book has only a half dozen important characters, so plenty of time is devoted to developing each of them. Everyone has a relatable point of view, and we wind up truly caring about what happens to all of them, even when they're completely at odds with one another. And perhaps most importantly, while Silver Linings Playbook overreaches to provide an easy path to happiness for its characters, Jones treats hers as actual humans. Even if every cloud does have a silver lining, that doesn't mean you'll always be able to find it.

Silver Sparrow: B+
Silver Linings Playbook: B+


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