The criticism around David O. Russell's new film, Silver Linings Playbook, is that it uses a hot-button topic—mental illness—to deliver what's essentially a romantic dramedy. Let me dispute that.
Sure, the main character, Pat Solitano, is bipolar. Sure, his life's been ruined because of the way he reacts to his mood swings. But Russell—whose recent work has disappointed me—didn't try to make a movie about mental illness; he made a movie about a man who's doing his best to control his mental illness, and those are two very different things.
I've yet to be truly impressed by Bradley Cooper, who plays Pat, but I appreciate that he's started to take challenging roles and seems to be working hard to be taken seriously. He's not there yet, but, as far as I'm concerned, Silver Linings is a step in the right direction.
When the film opens, Pat's wrapping up an eight-month stint in a state mental hospital. He's lost everything: his job, his house and his wife. But Pat's decided to be positive—he's looking for a silver lining in everything, and he's convinced that even though he's moving back in with his mom (Jacki Weaver) and dad (none other than Robert De Niro), he can get all of those things back, especially his wife. No, that's not a healthy place to be, and he's the only person who can't see it.
Things change when he's introduced to Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a young woman who's mourning her late police-officer husband. The two are nicely suited to one another, because they're both damaged. Lawrence, it turns out, is Silver Lining Playbook's secret play, because, for the most part, she doesn't turn Tiffany into a mercurial Holly Golightly type. Nope, she's broken, too, and just trying to make the best of challenging circumstances.
What's interesting is that the entire film—which opens Friday, Nov. 16—feels like it'd be more comfortable 40 years ago. That's not a criticism; it's just that straight-up family dramas rarely get made anymore.
It's nice to see De Niro break out of the string of stupid films he's been making lately, and if you think that looks like Chris Tucker playing Pat's buddy, it's because it is, making his first film appearance half a decade.
A Royal Affair: Period piece about a Danish woman, the German doctor she loves and her crazy husband, who happens to be the king.
Jab Tak Hai Jaan: The final Bollywood musical from Yash Chopra, one of the industry's legends. Screens at Horton Plaza.
Let it Snow: The IMAX theater at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park gets animated and kid-friendly just in time for the holidays.
Lincoln: It might as well have been called The 13th Amendment. Despite another spellbinding performance from Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln's biopic is really about getting legislation through Congress.
San Diego Arab Film Festival: Yet another festival makes its San Diego debut.It runs Friday and Saturday, Nov. 16 and 17, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.
Suddenly it's Magic: A famous Thai actor tries to ditch the hassles of his life by heading to the Philippines. That's where he meets a cute baker, who's been a fan of his many romantic comedies. Screens at Horton Plaza.
This Must Be the Place: Sean Penn is an aging goth rocker who travels from Dublin to New York City to confront the man who humiliated his dad. Yeah, just as weird as it sounds.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2: At last, the long national nightmare is over.
Wake in Fright: Considered one of the seminal films of Australian cinema, this disturbing '70s feature about a schoolteacher who's confronted by a group of derelicts has been virtually unseen in the U.S.
One Time Only
Son in Law: Ah, Pauly Shore, what has become of you? No, wait, please, don't answer that. Screens at around 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, at Sea Rocket Bistro in North Park.
The Big Lebowski: The story of a rug. It really tied the room together, but, alas, it was soiled. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
I Love Skateboarding: A Pete the Ox Video Retrospect: This guy can shred. Live music will be played, too, at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15, at A Ship in the Woods in Del Mar.
Twilight Marathon: The entire franchise, culminating in the final film. Are you Team Edward, Team Jacob or Team Sick of It? Starts at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 15, at several area theaters.
Internet Cat Video Festival: With the election over, we can finally stop clicking on Nate Silver's blog and go back to using the Internet for its most important purpose. Part of the Museum of Photographic Arts' POP Thursdays. Starts at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15.
To Kill a Mockingbird: Incredibly important book. Incredibly important movie. Gregory Peck won his Oscar playing Atticus Finch, who defends a black man in the south in 1950s. The story is seen through the eyes of Finch's tomboy daughter, Scout. Screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15, at several area theaters. Hit fathomevents.com for locations and tickets.
Earthquake: Classic disaster epic of a massive earthquake hitting Los Angeles. Screens at noon and 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15, at Reading Town Square Cinema in Clairemont.
Young Frankenstein: Put on the ritz with Mel Brooks and Co. in this classic horrormovie parody. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15, through Saturday, Nov. 17, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Straight, No Chaser: Clint Eastwood is one of the producers of this 1988 documentary about Thelonious Monk. Screens at 2:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16, at the Central Library, Downtown.
The Wizard of Oz: When the credits roll, just click your heels together three times and you'll be home. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16, at Full Moon Drive-In in Pacific Beach.
Groundswell: A Small Film About Making a Big Stand: Grassroots documentary about an attempt to pipe tar-sands oil from Alberta to British Columbia, before exporting it to Asia and California. Screens at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17, at Patagonia in Cardiff-by-the-Sea.
Night of the Living Dead: George Romero's classic zombie movie is actually about racism, but whatever—this is the film that set all the rules for zombie movies to come. Screens at 7 and 10:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17, and 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 20, at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas.
Easy Rider: The ultimate counterculture film. Dennis Hopper directed and stars with Peter Fonda—they're a couple of hoppedup bikers cruising America's freeways on hogs, looking for the American dream. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17, at Full Moon Drive-In in Pacific Beach.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Meat Loaf plays a biker who meets a violent death. Screens at midnight, Saturday, Nov. 17, at the Ken Cinema.
Seven Minutes in Heaven: A young Israeli woman who survived a suicide bombing has to delve into her own psyche to explore that day's events. Screens 6:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 19, at the Central Library, Downtown.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers: Not the 1970s version with Donald Sutherland. This edition, from the 1950s, is as much about communism as it as about invaders from outer space. Screens at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 19, at Reading Town Square Cinema in Clairemont.
Charlie is My Darling: Peter Whitehead's documentary was the first on The Rolling Stones, chronicling the band's 1965 two-day tour of Ireland. Screens at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 20, at The Loft at UCSD.
Planes, Trains & Automobiles: Steve Martin is a high-powered exec trying to get home for the holidays, saddled with John Candy, an annoying shower-curtain-ring salesman with a soft side. Screens at around 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 21, at Sea Rocket Bistro in North Park.
Hannah and Her Sisters: One of Woody Allen's best, and perfect for Thanksgiving. Mia Farrow is Hannah, whose husband (Michael Caine) falls for her sister (Barbara Hershey). Screens at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 21, at the Central Library, Downtown.
The Details: Tobey Maguire is obsessed with getting rid of the raccoons that are digging up his lawn. Wife Elizabeth Banks has had enough, and soon nosey neighbor Laura Linney gets involved, too.
Detropia: The makers of Jesus Camp take a look at Motown, one of the hardesthit urban areas in the nation. Some of the images of abandoned areas are amazing and disturbing.
The Flat: An Israeli documentary filmmaker finds himself exploring his family's secret history after his grandmother dies and he starts sorting through her things.
A Late Quartet: A famous string quartet, whose members include Christopher Walken, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Catherine Keener, struggle to stay together after one of them gets some terrible news.
The Loneliest Planet: Gael García Bernal and Hani Furstenberg play an engaged couple backpacking through the Caucasus mountains who are forced to examine themselves as a couple and as individuals.
Skyfall: Daniel Craig's third outing as 007 is thankfully closer to Casino Royale than Quantum of Solace. This time, he's going up against Javier Bardem, who has some history with MI-6.
Flight: Robert Zemeckis' first live-action film in more than a decade suffers from many of the standard alcoholism-film clichés, but it features a tremendous performance from Denzel Washington, playing a pilot who lands his broken jet miraculously, with minimal loss of life.
The Other Son: An Israeli and a Palestinian discover they were switched at birth.
Tales of the Maya Skies: This IMAX movie explores the rich history of the Mayan people, just in time for the end of the world. At the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
The Man With the Iron Fists: The Wu-Tang Clan's RZA co-wrote (with Eli Roth), directed and stars in this ultraviolent martial-arts epic, which also features Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu. They're all on the trail of a fortune in gold.
Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk: Go white-water rafting without actually getting wet. Screens on Fridays through November (except Nov. 30) at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Lewis & Clark: Great Journey West: Get up close and personal with the famous explorers in IMAX, Fridays through November (except Nov. 16) at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
The Sessions: John Hawkes is great as Mark O'Brien, a writer and poet paralyzed by polio who turns to a sexual surrogate (Helen Hunt) in order to lose his virginity at age 38.
Wreck-It Ralph: The latest animated film from Disney stars John C. Reilly as Ralph, the bad guy in an old-school video game who desperately wants to be liked.
Chasing Mavericks: A surfing movie, surprisingly co-directed by Michael Apted and Curtis Hanson, about a teen who turns to crusty surfing legend Gerard Butler to help him survive a massive wave.
Cloud Atlas: This epic production is almost three hours long and stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent and Hugo Weaving in multiple roles. It consists of six stories that span different time periods, with a running storyline about reincarnation and the effects of our actions on future generations.
Fun Size: A teenage girl loses track of her little brother while attending a Halloween party thrown by a really cute boy.
Silent Hill: Revelation 3D: Very few video-game adaptations are successful enough to demand a sequel. The first one looked terrific—let's hope this sequel follows suit.
Alex Cross: We're used to Morgan Freeman in the role of this famous detective. Now the part is played by Tyler Perry. Another obvious sign of the impending apocalypse.
Paranormal Activity 4: Now with more paranormal.
Seven Psychopaths: Martin McDonagh returns with another violent comedic drama. Colin Farrell stars as Marty, an L.A. screenwriter surrounded by psychopaths such as Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson and Tom Waits. Like McDonagh's debut, In Bruges, this one has an emotional heart to it, despite the blood and guts.
Argo: Ben Affleck directs and stars in this take on the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, and believe it or not, it's gonna be a Best Picture contender.
Here Comes the Boom: High-school biology teacher Kevin James becomes an MMA cage fighter in order to keep his school's extracurricular activities afloat.
Sinister: Novelist Ethan Hawke stumbles upon footage that explains how a family was murdered in the very house in which he's working—which, of course, puts him in serious danger, too.
Flight of the Butterflies: It turns out Monarch butterflies are much like SDSU students—every year, thousands of them head to Mexico. This IMAX film captures their beautiful trip. The butterflies, that is.
Frankenweenie: Tim Burton hasn't made a film that's been an original idea in years, so it sort of makes sense that he'd remake one of his own movies.
Taken 2: Remember all those dudes Liam Neeson killed in the thoroughly violent Taken? At least one of them has a family member out for a little payback.
Hotel Transylvania: You won't be surprised to hear that this new animated film involves vampires. And 3-D.
Looper: Director Rian Johnson (Brick, Brothers Bloom) teams once again with Joseph Gordon-Levitt for this time-twister; JGL is a hit man whose future self (Bruce Willis) is sent back in time to be rubbed out.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower: This adaptation of the beloved young-adult novel has made plenty of old adults feel for their youth.
Pitch Perfect: Anna Kendrick is the new girl at college who finds her place by joining a bad-ass all-girl vocal group.
End of Watch: Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena are L.A. cops targeted by a Mexican cartel after a routine traffic stop.
The House at the End of the Street: Jennifer Lawrence and her mother, Elisabeth Shue, move next door to a house where there'd been a brutal murder. When Lawrence makes friends with the sole surviving family member, things get dangerous.
The Master: The new one from Paul Thomas Anderson looks at the relationship between drifter Joaquin Phoenix and emerging religious figure/cult leader Phillip Seymour Hoffman. It is intelligent, artistic, cerebral, and challenging.
Trouble with the Curve: Aging baseball scout Clint Eastwood would have much more success if he'd stop talking to chairs.
Searching for Sugar Man: When two South Africans try to learn how an obscure American singer-songwriter from the '70s died, they get more than they bargained for. Despite that sounding like a feature, it's a pretty damn good documentary.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days: If it feels like they release one of these every summer, that's because that they release one of these every summer.
The Dark Knight Rises: Christopher Nolan's epic Batman trilogy concludes.
Ice Age: Continental Drift: So cold.
Flying Monsters 3D: No, it's not a crappy studio blockbuster—this one is all about dinosaurs and was written and directed by Richard Attenborough, using Avatar-like technology, and plays the San Diego Natural History Museum in Balboa Park.
To the Arctic 3-D: Cute-animal-movie alert No. 2. Meryl Streep narrates this new IMAX movie about a mama polar bear and her two cubs.
Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity: Liam Neeson narrates this IMAX film, screening at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The camp classic continues its ongoing run, Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.