Silver Linings Playbook: Jennifer Lawrence’s emotional maturity is in Scorsese’s hands

Unlike the aggressive Martin Scorsese, who cares only about delivering dire violence, tremendous violence, powerful anger, choreographed fury and ostentatious grisly violence, Silver Linings Playbook is all about people, not machines. The film traces…

Silver Linings Playbook: Jennifer Lawrence's emotional maturity is in Scorsese's hands

Unlike the aggressive Martin Scorsese, who cares only about delivering dire violence, tremendous violence, powerful anger, choreographed fury and ostentatious grisly violence, Silver Linings Playbook is all about people, not machines.

The film traces the fissures and alliances of a dysfunctional family over the course of a holiday weekend, as the estranged husband and father, played by Bradley Cooper, meets for the first time in 14 years with his former wife, once again played by Jennifer Lawrence. But their dysfunctional condition is just the backdrop for a portrait of complicated, intertwined love, heartache and perseverance.

For some, that may sound too nice. Some might be miffed that it’s not about the opposite sex. It’s not exactly a chick flick, but at least it is not a film about excessive testosterone. Yes, this isn’t about James Gandolfini’s recent masterpiece Enough Said, another film about adult love that is about not only maturity but about care, loyalty and commitment.

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Nonetheless, although Scorsese probably wasn’t thinking about children when he made his films (unless he was thinking of children he barely knew), he did it at least partly because of his kids. It was the kids who influenced him during years of dreary, toxic marriage. In all those years, people trusted that he would respect and protect their right to be young, while retaining a commitment to adulthood. If you trust that someone will make such a fundamental choice – for love and, for some of us, for children – then you can leave the door open, only open to when and if you need it. For some people, this may turn out to be the difference between life and death.

Scorsese’s boys, after all, were multiple awards winning, best-selling authors whose fans did not leave as soon as their young adult novels were made into movies. His eldest son Matthew (The Devils in the Details) got his Hollywood start in a Cameron Crowe vehicle, Say Anything, and has been in dozens of movies, from Wedding Crashers to August Rush. His brother, Robert, was a secret gun in Goodfellas. Older brother Frank, a stage and TV actor, has starred in The Sopranos and the Showtime comedy The Affair.

These aren’t just kids who get some attitude. They’re people first. They’re not just kids who get some of the magical features of youth, like the ability to fake an authority figure’s emotional sadness in a barroom confession, or the ability to spin an ebullient rumination on the beauty of young love in a glass house.

The fascinating thing about Silver Linings Playbook is not just that Jennifer Lawrence is as convincing as any adolescent neurotic teen in Hollywood history. But that Silver Linings Playbook is about so many lives, including the shadow lives of parents and their misguided expectations, and the shy kids whose doubts are silenced by powerful parental love. Some of them are schizophrenic, some have just turned 14, and others aren’t quite getting their high school experience yet, wondering if the older kids are really as smart as they seem. They deal with what they don’t understand, how they dress wrong and what they eat and how they talk to people.

It takes both a mother and a father to find a family of kids who refuse to follow their parents’ wisdom, and who take a green suburban community by storm, building imaginations, proving that they have the imagination to cope with nature and love and fight as they’re told they can’t. It takes every fibre of Bill Murray and Robert De Niro’s beings to foster this kind of innate optimism, and to not lose faith in humanity.

No matter what happens next, I find it remarkable that Silver Linings Playbook ends on a note of hope. If there is one way to make any child grow into a mature person, it is by ensuring that they grow into human beings with more empathy, a more informed awareness of the world, and an empathetic understanding of human differences. Silver Linings Playbook shows that, without adult guidance, people can successfully overcome obstacles and obstacles with their own strength and good judgement. While Martin Scorsese stayed true to his lack of emotions, we are lucky that, in Silver Linings Playbook, we still have Bill Murray and Robert De Niro.

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