Friday, February 15, 2013

MUST WATCH FRIDAY: Silver Linings Playbook

Harlequin KISS author Heidi Rice talks about the awesome wonderfulness of the new Bradley Cooper/Jennifer Lawrence movie about romance, dance and mental illness. Doesn't sound like a winner? Read on...

There are so many wonderful things about Silver Linings Playbook that it's hard to know where to start gushing… Should I start with the gorgeousness that is Bradley Cooper in a fearless performance as a man coming to terms with bipolar disorder? Or Jennifer Lawrence,  the young Hunger Games star, who proves that she's not just a great hand with a bow and arrow? Or Robert De Niro finally taking on a real part again instead of just going through the motions? Or writer/director David O Russell's inventive, unconventional script which manages to mix comedy with tragedy and a subtle but beautifully character-led romance? Or that hilarious final dance routine that defies all the usual dance-movie clich├ęs while at the same time being uplifting and love-affirming and ridiculously cute? Or maybe I should simply say that this film has reinvigorated the romantic comedy for me. At last here's a movie that brings the genre back to the excellence of films like When Harry Met Sally or even screwball classics like Bringing Up Baby and His Girl Friday— where the comedy springs from the characters and not just a string of clever gags — while at the same time teaching us that just because someone suffers from a mental illness it doesn't make them less of an individual or less of a person. And that's some pretty powerful juju right there.

I don't want to give too much of the plot away because one of the things I loved about this movie was that I really didn't know how this film was going to develop — but in a nutshell: the story involves Bradley Cooper's newly-released psychiatric patient Pat Solitano who returns to live with his parents (Bob De Niro and the fabulously sweet Jacki Weaver) in a bog standard Philly neighbourhood and gets roped in to entering a dance competition with the recently widowed Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence).

Now Pat's a guy who's been white knuckling it through life. He still hasn't quite come to terms with the fact that he suffers from bipolar disorder so he won't take his medication. And he's still desperately in love with his wife - even though she has a restraining order out against him.  So Pat's life isn't exactly peachy. But it's very apparent that if Pat is busy trying to crawl back up the cliff after going over the edge, Tiffany is literally clinging to the cliff-edge too. After becoming something of a nymphomaniac since her husband died, Tiffany has an almost autistic urge to say things exactly how they are with no social filter. The beauty of this film is all about how these two interact not just with each other but with their long-suffering family and friends. They are both volatile, emotionally-fragile, impossible-to-live-with people, but they also have a bluntness and tenacity and quirkiness that makes you warm to them anyway. As we watch them muddle their way back on to safer ground together there are lots of pitfalls and genuinely poignant moments and chances to laugh out loud along the way but what neither Russell nor his actors ever forget is that this is a film about individuals… Not stereotypes!

And let's not forget that fabulous final dance — which I absolutely adored because it doesn't fall into that usual trap of having your couple become world-champion dance partners after a few rehearsals (yup, I'm looking at you Dirty Dancing!!). No, Pat looks like a man who's only just learned how to tap-dance and Tiffany looks like a woman who's more amateur than professional and yet they still triumph… If you want to know how and why go see the movie - but it involves American football and I still loved it, which is saying something!!

I really hope this film is the dawn of a new era for intelligent, character-led, unconventional romantic comedy-dramas that actually have something interesting to say about the human condition -  instead of all that slick, shallow and mildly misogynist rubbish (most of which seems to star Gerard Butler - don't even get me started on The Ugly Truth!)  that has hijacked the format in recent years.

Heidi's first Harlequin KISS novel, Too Close for Comfort, featuring drools-worthy Mexican American PI Zane Montoya and feisty Scottish wildlife artist Iona McCabe, is due out at the end of May in North America. And then she is joining forces with Aimee Carson, Amy Andrews and Kimberly Lang for a fabulous KISS continuity called The Wedding Season. Her book Maid of Dishonour is the third book and is out in September! She loves to hear from readers on Facebook, Twitter (@HeidiRomRice), her blog or her website.