It’s the start of February, and as the Oscars are just around the corner now ÉCU takes a look at another great indie film which has received an impressive eight Academy Award nominations: David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook (2012). Russell is an American film director, producer and screenwriter, and directed and wrote the screenplay for Silver Linings Playbook (based on a novel by Matthew Quick). He is also known for Spanking the Monkey (1994), Flirting with Disaster (1996), Three Kings (1999), I Huckabees (2004) and The Fighter (2010). Given the diversity of these films it is difficult to pin down what Russell’s style is. His movies explore very different themes, sometimes quite serious, but with a good sense of humour.

I Huckabees, for example, is an existential comedy, in which the characters ask big, philosophical questions – but the film is essentially farcical. It features hilarious performances by Jason Schwartzman, Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin, Mark Wahlberg, Naomi Watts and Jude Law. Schwartzman’s character, Albert, hires existential detectives (Hoffman and Tomlin) to help him discover the reason for the coincidences in his life, and meets Wahlberg’s character, who has a nihilistic philosophy on life. The film has amusing dialogue about the big questions in life.

Albert’s detective (Tomlin): “Have you ever transcended space and time?”

Albert: “Yes. No. Eh time, not space. No, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

A completely different style of film, which received much critical acclaim (including seven Oscar nominations), is Russell’s The Fighter, starring Mark Wahlberg, Melissa Leo, Amy Adams and Christian Bale. It is based on the true story of the professional boxer Micky Ward (Wahlberg) whose idol was his older half-brother Dicky (Bale), a talented boxer with lots of potential who slipped into a life of crack addiction. Micky struggles with his difficult family, who insist on controlling his professional boxing career. The acting is great and the movie sheds interesting light on drug addiction and family relations.

Silver Linings Playbook has done incredibly well in terms of award nominations, and features great roles by Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence (who won a Golden Globe for Best Actress for her part) and Robert De Niro. The film portrays how two main characters deal with their personal problems, and how they see that the world recognises them as being “crazy” and not handling things in a way that is seen as socially acceptable. Pat (Cooper) is bipolar and committed to a clinic after he violently attacks a man (whom he found his wife cheating on him with). Since losing her husband, Tiffany (Lawrence) has gained herself a reputation for being a nymphomaniac.

It is clear that the characters unsettle others by speaking their minds too openly and showing their raw emotions as they experience them. The film questions people’s judgment of those who are somehow not normal and whether we wouldn’t be better off expressing ourselves as we are. Technically it is the two main characters who are seen as “different”, and yet we see plenty of people who might be perceived as normal, but who are just trying to play along and fit in. Pat’s father has OCD, but acts like his superstitions are normal, his friend is buckling under the pressure of being a tough guy in the office and providing everything his wife wants, yet he tries to maintain the veneer of having everything under control. The movie is quite uplifting and we would highly recommend a watch – and wish it the best of luck at the Oscars!

Gill Gillespie

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