The Little Movie that Could and Might

I thought it was worth mentioning that, though it might seem ludicrous that a film like Silver Linings Playbook — feelgood, light romcom – could beat the best lineup of films we’ve seen in a long, long time it might do just that. As I was listening to actors chatter next to me at the SAG screening I attended yesterday, the film they were buzzing about was Silver Linings. But it isn’t just idle talk, it isn’t just that it’s the Weinstein Co., it’s also that in times of strife people might embrace the one movie that makes them feel good and soothes their aching bones about our conflicted world. In other words, it fits the lyrics to this song pretty well:

Ain’t got no place to lay your head
Somebody came and took your bed
Don’t worry, be happy
The land lord say your rent is late
He may have to litigate
Don’t worry, be happy
Lood at me I am happy
Don’t worry, be happy

And there’s a lot to be said for that. The one movie I thought might take some heat from it would have been Les Miserables but that might be the most emotionally intense of the bunch and far from uplifting. Many think it’s beautiful and deeply moving but the last thing it’s going to be telling you is, don’t worry, be happy. It’s about the French Revolution Paris Rebellion of 1832.

Zero Dark Thirty is not only about the hunt for Bin Laden but about the difficult relationship we have with war and not just any war, war on an impoverished group of people who live in mostly broken down old shacks. Lincoln is about ending slavery and yet many southern red states have, impossibly, filed petitions to secede – why? Because they fear “the other” is leading the country. For the second time in our country’s history the south wants no part of progress, certainly if it means being led by a black man. It’s horrifying, scary and depressing to look back at our past to try to understand our present. Life of Pi fits the feelgood but it isn’t a “sit anybody down in front of it and they will like it if not love it” movie. It requires a certain level of letting go, of trusting the story to tell you what it needs to tell you.  When the theme of your movie is what the Buddhists teach, that “life is suffering” you are never going to come out of that humming “Don’t worry, be happy.”

There is only one that does that. This means Jennifer Lawrence is going to go head to head with Chastain. Lawrence’s character is a fixer, a woman who wants nothing more than to have the male lead fall for her and when he does he rescues her right back, as Julia Roberts says in Pretty Woman. It invigorates men and women alike because it is a romantic fairy tale for both. Chastain has the much harder job – she plays a woman who is being dismissed by her male counterparts throughout – like the esteemed Bigelow, Chastain’s Maya is a simmering pot. She has two key moments where the pot boils over but she doesn’t expose herself the way Lawrence does. She can’t. The safety of the free world is at stake. I can’t explain human beings, especially when you are talking about a consensus vote. But no one in the Oscar race ever votes for anything they think they “should” vote for. They vote for what they like.

The only other movie that might share some of the feelgood vote would be Argo. Though it’s about the freeing of hostages it is  a story of success and redemption. Like Zero Dark Thirty, though, it also doesn’t shy away from the horrors of war. But Argo takes a lighter approach. It is still a pulse-pounding drama but with comic relief. What it doesn’t have that Silver Linings has  is this idea of washing away all of your troubles because everything will work out in the end. Everything does work out in the end of Argo except that the Iran conflict rages on with no happy end in sight, not for the Iranians especially.

I used to think Dave Karger was out of his mind but now I’m starting to see why he continues to predict that movie to win. Therefore, watch out for Silver Linings Playbook.

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