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Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lj5_FhLaaQQ

IMDB:

After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own.


Directed by David O. Russell.

Starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert de Niro, Julia Stiles, and Chris Tucker.

 


It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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NO COMMENTS IN THIS THREAD?

The film's been out a couple of weeks, right? Maybe only in select markets? I thought this was a national release.

I saw it last night. For a movie I'd heard was about a "slut" and full of sexual innuendo, it's remarkably sex-free. (EDIT: There's a flashback scene of adultery, but it's presented in a traumatic context.) Which is altogether shocking for modern audiences of romantic comedies. Yes, there's talk about shameful sexual histories, and some justification of such. But this movie doesn't dwell on that, or maybe I should say, it doesn't get stuck there.

I know Ken has blogged about the film, and he has concluded -- I hope I don't misunderstand Ken here -- that it shows one man abandoning his marital vows. The way I saw it, it's about a man who's been abandoned by his spouse, and his slow realization that she's walked away from him (not without cause). That being the case, I wasn't as troubled as I otherwise would have been by the main character's pursuit of love. The fact that he spends most of the movie not pursuing it (EDIT: or pursues the wrong person) is a mark in the movie's favor.

And there's the whole "Sunday is the best day" element of the film. Football is the dominant premise for the remark, but I don't think the film discourages us from other interpretations of what Sunday represents (rebirth) for these characters. (EDIT: I mentioned this interpretation to my wife, and she replied, "I think you're stretching." :))

I was very surprised by how much I liked this movie.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I found the film very enjoyable. It's portrayal of the relationship of the central romantic relationship between two wounded people, the need and confusion of reaching out and pulling away from each other, was realistic. I liked that instead of just seeing someone talking to a therapist, here was see a practical outworking of a man's attempt at self-improvement while dealing with his own anger and his relationship with his father.

It's a relief to see DeNiro get away from those Focker movies and deliver one of his best roles in a while.

I thought the potrayal of the community aspect of men bonding through football was well done. And nobody even mentioned their fantasy teams. ;)

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One of my favorite's of the year. The film is a big, overstuffed and often loses itself; but I laughed and was genuinely moved.


If there were no God, there would be no Atheists.

G. K. Chesterton (1874 - 1936)

I'm still an atheist, thank God.

Luis Bunuel (1900 - 1983)

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Well, this movie accomplished quite a bit for me.

It convinced me that David O. Russell is still the compelling director that made Flirting with Disaster and Three Kings. It further convinced me that Jennifer Lawrence is the most exciting young actress in American movies. It made me believe that DeNiro may still have a great performance in him. (This was better than anything he's done in ages.)

And most surprising to me, it broke my Bradley Cooper phobia. Okay, the guy's pretty good. Best Actor good? No way. But at least not annoying. He's good company just like he was in the first couple of seasons of Alias before they ruined it by desperately pairing him with Sidney's roommate to spice things up. (Didn't we all want him to end up with Sidney instead of Mr. Perpetually Furrowed Brow?)

But while the movie is terrifically involving for a while, stirring up a bunch of frighteningly messed-up characters into enabling each others' worst behaviors, it lost me in the last act, when everything went Hollywood wishful-thinking insane.

I've seen friends make so many bad decisions that they end up in a seemingly unsolvable problem. I've seen them dig deep pits of despair for themselves. I've seen them medicate, then take more medication to manage their medication, and then medicate further to manage that, believing that pills will solve their problems. (Don't get me wrong: I'm a believer in medication... so long as it's helping and not creating new problems.)

And then I've seen them pin their hopes on someone else: Not God, not a higher power, but a dream guy or dream girl who will somehow see them as the person they want to be, swoop in, become a personal coach in their rehabilitation, and then fulfill their romantic dreams.

When this fantasy sets in, there's an even greater likelihood that this person is doomed.

If we believe that the only way we'll ever heal is for a fantasy love-interest to show up and choose us... or at least accompany us... into the light, then things won't turn out well. Chances are 1 in a million that that person will show up. And if they do, the recovery is motivated by the wrong thing, something likely to be temporary, likely to disappoint.

In this movie, the fantasy is inflated by the fact that the love interests are played by a recent "Sexiest Man Alive" and Hollywood's It Girl.

So the ending of this movie, while it definitely works like a very-well crafted and seductive lie, is just that. A lie. It will only reinforce the "I'm Waiting for a Sexy Savior" fantasy for those in that predicament.

Once I realized we were going there (to be fair, both characters are playing the damaged person and that person's savior in this scenario), I realized that I wouldn't be able to join the angel choirs singing this movie's praises.

I found myself wandering off into some strange comparisons, like, "This ends a lot like Lincoln. It's been a movie about people shouting at each other, making self-interested bargains, gambling, trying to get along, and then... it all comes down to a nail-biter finale that cranks up the tension with a Scoreboard outcome. Will they have enough points to live happily ever after?"

Sorry, David O. Russell. You remain the most memorable interview I've ever enjoyed, but I'm still hoping you'll make another movie I like as much as Flirting with Disaster.

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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I'm watching it again next weekend. Maybe the story's shortcomings will bother me more, but I doubt it. I don't bring the same friend baggage to this film that you do, although I wouldn't try to pretend that such baggage shouldn't affect someone. I've seen tweets from people who knew, or dated, people with mental illness or serious bipolar disorder, and how put off they are by this film's refusal to be overly serious about the ups and downs (mainly downs) of such relationships. But I don't understand, myself, the demand for more realism from this particular film. Sure, the issues it raises are heavy stuff, and it treads lightly. To which I say: Thank God for that. I like a little romantic fantasy sometimes, even if it comes with serious medical/personal issues in the mix.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I would have been able to forgive the fairy tale elements more if Russell hadn't also pandered to the Monday Night Football and Dancing With the Stars crowds by...

...staking the ending on A) the outcome of a football game and

cool.png the scores handed out by judges at a dancing contest. I'm allergic to stories that cop out at the ending by bringing everything down to points on a board.

These characters deserved a happy ending that grew from their own choices, not by grafting on suspense and gratification from our national couch-potato pastimes.

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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I saw this with a psychiatrist friend of mine who works in outpatient therapy. I might be dense, but he picked up one something I hadn't. He made the point that:

The movie was not saying that they'd overcome their various mental hurdles through the process in the movie, but that their problems had to have been solely emotional problems, rather than complete mental health deficiencies. He said anyone that would really need the hospitalization and care that Bradley Cooper's character would have had a much greater difficulty and many more, less predictable and uniform spikes.

I personally loved how so many of their mental health problems were reflected in the people around them: the obvious ones like De Niro's "OCD" and the brother's lack of a filter, but also the more subtle examples like the gawking of the neighbors. But since these people aren't "crazy" their actions aren't labeled as such.

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I know Ken has blogged about the film, and he has concluded -- I hope I don't misunderstand Ken here -- that it shows one man abandoning his marital vows. The way I saw it, it's about a man who's been abandoned by his spouse, and his slow realization that she's walked away from him (not without cause). That being the case, I wasn't as troubled as I otherwise would have been by the main character's pursuit of love. The fact that he spends most of the movie not pursuing it (EDIT: or pursues the wrong person) is a mark in the movie's favor.

Sorry, yet again, to quote myself, but it's easier than regurgitating the same thought as a way to re-engage the discussion. Since posting the quoted material above, I've also seen SDG's review of the film -- can't remember if it was a written review, or one of his "60 Second Reviews" -- in which SDG pretty much says the same thing as Ken.

Can we flesh this out? My planned re-watch of the movie a couple of weekends back never happened, so I'm no more certain about this than I was when I originally posted. I think I may have simply misunderstood what's happening at the end, and the nature of the relationship between Cooper and the woman whose love he hopes to win throughout most of the movie.

Is she his wife or isn't she? The way I read, or misread, Ken and Steven was that the two of them were still married, which makes the character's decision to pursue Jennifer Lawrence's character suspect. My response was to say that the original couple was no longer married, so Cooper's character (why can't I remember any of the characters' names????) was essentially free to pursue Lawrence's character.

I just read Anne Thompson's latest blog about SLP, in which she writes (emphasis added):

Russell takes a stab at what he thinks Pat (Bradley Cooper) softly murmurs to his ex-wife Nikki (Brea Bee) after seeing her at the dance competition in which he and Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) compete.

(Ah, it's Pat, Nikki and Tiffany. Got it!)

So, if Pat and Nikki are no longer married, what's the moral trangression at the end of the film? I can see how a Catholic might say that Pat and Nikki are forever joined (SDG: please correct/amplify your church's teaching if you'd like), but Ken's not Catholic, so ... what's up?


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Is she his wife or isn't she? The way I read, or misread, Ken and Steven was that the two of them were still married, which makes the character's decision to pursue Jennifer Lawrence's character suspect. My response was to say that the original couple was no longer married, so Cooper's character (why can't I remember any of the characters' names????) was essentially free to pursue Lawrence's character.

Having just seen the film, I read it as, Pat and Nikki are no longer married. Nikki has wholly moved on from the marriage, but Pat has a fantasy idea that he can save what is already gone. Both Tiffany and Pat are no longer married; the former a widow, the latter a divorcee with a restraining order from his ex-wife. At least that's how I viewed it.

Really liked the film too. A lot of raw emotions and brutally honest conversations from some stellar actors. It's a romantic comedy-drama, being both lighthearted and heavy simultaneously, yet it still manages avoid becoming an emotional roller coaster or a film without an identity. I can admire that. It's the first time I also admired Bradley Cooper for a performance. Definitely not the first time (and probably not the last) I was impressed with a Jennifer Lawrence performance.

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Having just seen the film, I read it as, Pat and Nikki are no longer married. Nikki has wholly moved on from the marriage, but Pat has a fantasy idea that he can save what is already gone. Both Tiffany and Pat are no longer married; the former a widow, the latter a divorcee with a restraining order from his ex-wife. At least that's how I viewed it.

Was there a divorce? There could have been, and I may have missed it, but I thought the only thing separating Pat and Nikki was a restraining order, which does not end a marriage. So, even though they are separated, Pat and Nikki are still married as I view it. (And wouldn't Pat have had to appear in court for a divorce trial, which even he would have been aware of.) I suspect the filmmakers viewed Pat's marriage as terminated due to the restraining order alone. But I do agree with SDG and Ken as they've been quoted here.

However, I really enjoyed the film as well. The raw emotions, the humor, and respect for mental illness placed it in my top 10 for 2012, despite the small flaw regarding the marriage situation.

Edited by Evan C

"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

- Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro

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FWIW, just saw Christian's query. Haven't been able to drag anyone to revisit the film, but I've been wanting to since it won the NCFCA best narrative picture.

My recollection was that they were separated but not divorced. But I am open to correction.

Christian is also right that I am not Roman Catholic, but my religious/spiritual understanding of sex and marriage is that it is a permanent relationship that is "until death" (regardless of one's LEGAL marriage status) so my own problems with the film (linked to above) would find that distinction (divorced vs. separated) more or less irrelevant (though I understand that it would be relevant for some and I mean no disrespect for those who feel differently). My over-arching point in the comparative piece is that I found SLP a typical example of the Hollywood tendency to make the hero(ine) both monogamously faithful and yet sexually available. This is either done by killing the wife ala (spoilers obviously) Mad Max, The Patriot, Braveheart or making the spouse abandon the protagonist so that he/she will be have everyone's blessing to move on.

We more or less live in a culture (even an evangelical subculture) that values faithfulness as a chip that increases someone's moral ledger but doesn't really believe it is intrinsically good. (Or to the extent it does, believes it is so idealistic as to be unattainable or unrealisic, an aspiration for heroes and saints but not a serious choice for an average guy. Is noone willing to argue Pat would be better off being faithful to his marriage vow, even if his wife left him and is divorced, than he would be pursuing Nikki? DeNiro's character says such a belief [which is more or less mine] is (or would be) a "sin." Which makes it hard for me to view the film as not so much incompatible with some elevated ideal of marriage that I have but more or less antithetical to it.)

Edited by kenmorefield

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This discussion is right up my alley. I'm going to try to get to this very soon. Thanks, all.


In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Having just seen the film, I read it as, Pat and Nikki are no longer married. Nikki has wholly moved on from the marriage, but Pat has a fantasy idea that he can save what is already gone. Both Tiffany and Pat are no longer married; the former a widow, the latter a divorcee with a restraining order from his ex-wife. At least that's how I viewed it.

Was there a divorce? There could have been, and I may have missed it, but I thought the only thing separating Pat and Nikki was a restraining order, which does not end a marriage. So, even though they are separated, Pat and Nikki are still married as I view it. (And wouldn't Pat have had to appear in court for a divorce trial, which even he would have been aware of.) I suspect the filmmakers viewed Pat's marriage as terminated due to the restraining order alone. So, I do agree with SDG and Ken as they've been quoted here.

This could be the case, as I don't recall any characters explicitly saying there either was or wasn't a divorce. I was under the impression that

Nikki was still in the unfaithful relationship with the teacher

. That's how I read the film, fwiw. I could be mistaken, or reading something into it that wasn't there.

...my religious/spiritual understanding of sex and marriage is that it is a permanent relationship that is "until death" (regardless of one's LEGAL marriage status) so my own problems with the film (linked to above) would find that distinction (divorced vs. separated) more or less irrelevant (though I understand that it would be relevant for some and I mean no disrespect for those who feel differently.

We more or less live in a culture (even an evangelical subculture) that values faithfulness as a chip that increases someone's moral ledger but doesn't really believe it is intrinsically good. (Or to the extent it does, believes it is so idealistic as to be unattainable or unrealisic, an aspieration for heroes and saints but not a serious choice for an average guy. Is noone willing to argue Pat would be better off being faithful to his marriage vow, even if his wife left him and is divorced, than he would be pursuing Nikki? DeNiro's character says such a belief [which is more or less mine] is (or would be) a "sin." Which makes it hard for me to few the film as not such incompatible with some elevated ideal of marriage that I have but more or less antithetical to it.)

I'm with you, in that I hold the belief that marital fidelity is worth pursuing and maintaining if possible, even in the context of adultery or mental health issues. (This belief is exactly why I nominated Take Shelter for our marriage list). My wife and I ended up having a great discussion about feeling torn between the seemingly-romantic "Pat should end up with Tiffany" narrative and our underlying belief that "Pat should pursue reconciliation with Nikki."

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kenmorefield wrote:

: This is either done by killing the wife ala (spoilers obviously) Mad Max, The Patriot, Braveheart . . .

That's a bizarre use of the spoiler tags, since [a] there is no way for the un-spoiled reader to know *which* films are being spoiled until the un-spoiled reader actually reads the spoiler, and all three examples kill the wife off pretty darn early, if not (in some cases) before the movie even begins, no?

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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My wife and I ended up having a great discussion about feeling torn between the seemingly-romantic "Pat should end up with Tiffany" narrative and our underlying belief that "Pat should pursue reconciliation with Nikki."

My position is that Pat should not pursue a relationship with Tiffany regardless of whether or not reconciliation with Nikki is an option.

Edit: Peter, I'd rather be too scrupulous with spoiler tags and be called "bizarre" than too loose with them and run the wrath of the spoiler police. It costs me next to nothing time wise and tries, however imperfectly to do unto others...

Edited by kenmorefield

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Just watched the film again tonight. Major spoilers follow.

Regarding the question/possibility that Pat and Nikki were no longer married, a second viewing strengthened my initial interpretation that: a) Pat and Nikki are still legally married; and b] Nikki is represented (however tenuously and opaquely) as not permanently and irrevocably closed to reconciliation. I could see how someone could dispute b] but I'm not sure that I could take seriously a reading that disputed a).

In order from least significant (to me) to most significant:

1) Pat still wears his wedding ring.

2) Pat states several times and in several different contexts not just that he is hoping to reconcile or get back together but that "I am married." [The most noticeable one being after Tiffany offers to have sex with him.] This, of course, could be attributed to his being in a state of denial...but...

3) Nobody, in his circle ever talks about "divorce" or mentions the word divorce. They always only talk about the restraining order. (They could be complicit in the denial, but...)

4) The doctor, in therapy stresses that Pat must prepare himself for the possibility that she "might not come back" not that that she has already moved on, might not want to get remarried or that he must reconcile himself to the fact that the marriage is over. I can't imagine any doctor who is even semi-competent (and the doctor is portrayed as being competent as far as I can see) parsing a divorce to a patient as "might" not come back.I would think he would view his outcome goal for therapy to get Pat to acknowledge what has happened and not couch it in euphemisms or possibilities, just, as, say, a cancer doctor would be unlikely to tell an inoperable patient whom he is sending to hospice with a two week life-expectancy that such a patient might have to accept the fact that he "might not" recover.

5) The reaction of everyone at the dance when Nikki arrives, not just Tiffany (who might not be thinking straight) is that this is Pat's "chance" and the reconciliation is at least a possibility. This could be their attempt to get him to face reality by puncturing his illusion/fantasy that the marriage is not over, but that more cynical view of the family and friends runs against the grain of how the family is presented and, I would argue, the film as a whole. If is clear through the revelation that mom called Tiffany that mom wants Pat and Tiffany to be together but she is told the marriage has to be given a chance. Dad, when trying to get Pat to go after Tiffany argues that he does not know if Nikki ever loved him, but claims she does not love him now like Tiffany does. I would find it hard to believe in this context that he would NOT emphasize that she had divorced if they in fact had. I find it equally hard to believe that Nikki's Tiffany's sister would bring her to the dance contest if they were divorced. (Though one can be divorced and still care about the other person and want to know they are doing well.) Nikki's own body language in the scene does not play as someone who has moved on (yet) and is there to try to just get him to accept that he has moved on.

6) Don't know anything about the divorce laws in Pennsylvania or Maryland but unless she was unable to divorce unilaterally while he was committed for 8 months as part of a plea-bargain, the fact that she hasn't may mean something.

The only real straw I saw that might support a contention that the marriage has been dissolved (even if that just means permanently broken on an emotional level regardless of the legal standing) was the brother's comment that Pat's illness "cost you your marriage." But Pat's response to this statement is not one that I would expect if he were clinging to a delusional stated of denial (i.e. claiming to still be married when he is not) .

So, overall I continue to read it as Pat being married but deciding through the dance competition and preparing for it that he is ready to move on and make his and Nikki's separation permanent or accept that it is rather than continuing to hope that they can ever be together.

Anyone read the novel? I'm wondering if this is clearer in it.

Edited by kenmorefield

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Was there a divorce? There could have been, and I may have missed it, but I thought the only thing separating Pat and Nikki was a restraining order, which does not end a marriage. So, even though they are separated, Pat and Nikki are still married as I view it. (And wouldn't Pat have had to appear in court for a divorce trial, which even he would have been aware of.) I suspect the filmmakers viewed Pat's marriage as terminated due to the restraining order alone. So, I do agree with SDG and Ken as they've been quoted here.

This could be the case, as I don't recall any characters explicitly saying there either was or wasn't a divorce. I was under the impression that

Nikki was still in the unfaithful relationship with the teacher

. That's how I read the film, fwiw. I could be mistaken, or reading something into it that wasn't there.

I missed anything that suggested Nikki was still seeing the teacher, but even if she was, adultery does not end a marriage. (weakens and threatens it, but does not end it.) And combined with Ken's points above, the way the film sets up the relationship, Pat is still married.

Admittedly, I do not think the film itself views Pat as still married and your earlier claim: "Pat has a fantasy idea that he can save what is already gone" is how I think the filmmakers view Pat and Nikki's relationship. So, I do not think the film promotes the dissolution of marriage or the celebration of adultery. The film celebrates the saved marriage of Veronica and Ronnie, and clearly condemns Nikki's earlier adultery. Therefore, I'm inclined to let Pat's marital status pass as an oversight from mistakenly believing his marriage has ended rather than think that the film is suggesting that it is good for Pat to end his marriage. I'm also much more drawn to the mental illness/recovery aspect of the story.

Edited by Evan C

"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

- Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro

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Just watched the film again tonight. Major spoilers follow.

Regarding the question/possibility that Pat and Nikki were no longer married, a second viewing strengthened my initial interpretation that: a) Pat and Nikki are still legally married; and b] Nikki is represented (however tenuously and opaquely) as not permanently and irrevocably closed to reconciliation. I could see how someone could dispute b] but I'm not sure that I could take seriously a reading that disputed a).

In order from least significant (to me) to most significant:

1) Pat still wears his wedding ring.

2) Pat states several times and in several different contexts not just that he is hoping to reconcile or get back together but that "I am married." [The most noticeable one being after Tiffany offers to have sex with him.] This, of course, could be attributed to his being in a state of denial...but...

3) Nobody, in his circle ever talks about "divorce" or mentions the word divorce. They always only talk about the restraining order. (They could be complicit in the denial, but...)

4) The doctor, in therapy stresses that Pat must prepare himself for the possibility that she "might not come back" not that that she has already moved on, might not want to get remarried or that he must reconcile himself to the fact that the marriage is over. I can't imagine any doctor who is even semi-competent (and the doctor is portrayed as being competent as far as I can see) parsing a divorce to a patient as "might" not come back.I would think he would view his outcome goal for therapy to get Pat to acknowledge what has happened and not couch it in euphemisms or possibilities, just, as, say, a cancer doctor would be unlikely to tell an inoperable patient whom he is sending to hospice with a two week life-expectancy that such a patient might have to accept the fact that he "might not" recover.

5) The reaction of everyone at the dance when Nikki arrives, not just Tiffany (who might not be thinking straight) is that this is Pat's "chance" and the reconciliation is at least a possibility. This could be their attempt to get him to face reality by puncturing his illusion/fantasy that the marriage is not over, but that more cynical view of the family and friends runs against the grain of how the family is presented and, I would argue, the film as a whole. If is clear through the revelation that mom called Tiffany that mom wants Pat and Tiffany to be together but she is told the marriage has to be given a chance. Dad, when trying to get Pat to go after Tiffany argues that he does not know if Nikki ever loved him, but claims she does not love him now like Tiffany does. I would find it hard to believe in this context that he would NOT emphasize that she had divorced if they in fact had. I find it equally hard to believe that Nikki's sister would bring her to the dance contest if they were divorced. (Though one can be divorced and still care about the other person and want to know they are doing well.) Nikki's own body language in the scene does not play as someone who has moved on (yet) and is there to try to just get him to accept that he has moved on.

6) Don't know anything about the divorce laws in Pennsylvania or Maryland but unless she was unable to divorce unilaterally while he was committed for 8 months as part of a plea-bargain, the fact that she hasn't may mean something.

The only real straw I saw that might support a contention that the marriage has been dissolved (even if that just means permanently broken on an emotional level regardless of the legal standing) was the brother's comment that Pat's illness "cost you your marriage." But Pat's response to this statement is not one that I would expect if he were clinging to a delusional stated of denial (i.e. claiming to still be married when he is not) .

So, overall I continue to read it as Pat being married but deciding through the dance competition and preparing for it that he is ready to move on and make his and Nikki's separation permanent or accept that it is rather than continuing to hope that they can ever be together.

Anyone read the novel? I'm wondering if this is clearer in it.

With points #1 and #2, I attributed this to Pat's inability to actually face the reality of the situation of his marriage. I viewed it as the denial stage in grief for both Tiffany and Pat, who both wear rings after both of their marriages have ended.

However, Point #4 is a strong one, and one that I hadn't considered.

In either case, Ken, I think I'm with you in your statement from the previous post: "My position is that Pat should not pursue a relationship with Tiffany regardless of whether or not reconciliation with Nikki is an option." Here's my confession: in a way...and I can't believe I'm typing this...while watching the film it was emotionally easier for me to justify and cheer the Pat/Tiffany romance if both of their marriages were already completely dissolved. My own initial reading of the film was likely swayed by this desire, maybe trying to see the silver lining in a broken situation that I would not condone in actual life. If Pat and Nikki are still married, well...then I'd come to the same conclusions as you, Ken, based on my own beliefs and convictions, not by how my emotions were swayed by the story.

Still, I enjoyed the film as a whole, and it has some of the strongest and most emotive performances of the year. Perhaps that's what swayed such a reading.

Sidenote: Ken, your spoiler tags above are (coincidentally?) all for Mel Gibson films.

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Evan, Joel, Ken: That's all very helpful. Thank you. I still haven't watched the movie a second time but am planning to do so in mid-February. (Yes, we sometimes plan our movie watching weeks in advance.)


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I just checked with Wikipedia entry for the book, which, if it can be believed, has some interesting tidbits. SPOILERS below, emphasis added:

The book is narrated through the eyes of Pat Peoples, a former history teacher who has moved back to his childhood home in Collingswood, New Jersey, after spending time in a Baltimore neurology hospital. Pat believes he has only been away a few months, soon realizes it has been years, and struggles to piece together his lost memories. He has a theory that life is a film created by God and that its "silver lining" will be his successful reunion with his wife Nikki. ...

Tiffany is there and admits she has forged Nikki's letters and that she had been trying to help Pat move on and gain closure on his marriage because she, Tiffany, is in love with Pat. ... Pat still doesn't recall how he was separated from his wife, only when he watches his wedding video do the memories eventually return.

I'm not sure we're supposed to read "separated" in the legal sense there, although the plot description does state that Pat's been away "for years." That's different from the movie, no?

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I'm not sure we're supposed to read "separated" in the legal sense there, although the plot description does state that Pat's been away "for years." That's different from the movie, no?

Yes. The film says eight months and the opening credits and release show at least glimpses that imply we move beyond Pat to establish that as ontological reality.He says (I believe to the therapist) that the "plea bargain" was for eight months and, iirc, the doctor in Maryland tells the mother that it is against medical advice that he is being signed out too soon.

I haven't read the book, but it sound to me as though it is (or could be) more firmly grounded in the first-person narrator consciousness that exploits the fact in some forms of literature, if the source of the story is suspect we don't know whether any parts of the story are true or not (Memento, Vanilla Sky). I think Russell was probably more interested in dealing with different issues rather than that one, knowing that the "is it real?" theme is harder to do well and meaningfully in film than literature.

The therapist asks Pat if he remembers anything before or after the episode (of finding his wife in the shower with another man and beating the other man). Pat admits that a week before the episode he phoned the school and accused his wife and the man of conspiring against him, which he says he now accepts was paranoid thinking brought on by his (at the time) undiagnosed bipolar condition. He also asks several times in the doctor's office if the song is actually playing, confessing he sometimes "hears" the song when it is not playing (such as outside the theater when Tiffany starts screaming that he is harassing her and the crowd moves in, threatening violence).

According to Johns Hopkins, individuals in bipolar "mood episodes" can "sometimes" experience delusions or even hallucinations but "these psychotic symptoms go away when their mood returns to normal." The notion that Pat could be in some sort of fixated or permanent delusional state may be part of the book but doesn't really fit the movie. I suppose it is possible that Pat has some other, undiagnosed condition on top of the bipolar and the delusions are meant to signal that, but I don't think the film ever invites us to view it that way. Here again, if he were in the hospital for eight months (or longer) and nobody identified delusional symptoms inconsistent with bipolar that would signal either medical incompetence or possibly even medical indifference. In the song incident outside the theater, the delusion (if we want to call it that) is temporary, and when Tiffany talks him down it is not as though he can no longer distinguish reality from what was in his head or is unaware that he was in a state when he was hearing the music.

Sidenote: Ken, your spoiler tags above are (coincidentally?) all for Mel Gibson films.

Not intentionally, but not surprising to me, either. Gibson is (or was) the king of that trope in part because his actor's persona was tied up in his being a devout, married man, so it is not surprising to me that while the demands of genre call for him his characters to be available (sexually), he would be attracted to roles where his character was faithful. You could, of course, add Lethal Weapon to the list of films that use that device. Also in Signs, he has a dead wife, though he never really pairs off romantically with anyone

I used to have a whole list of films that used that trope, but I don't know where I put it. Non-Mel examples might include Death Wish or A Man Apart. Variations can include stuff like Total Recall, where the wife isn't really the wife and so can be abandoned for someone preferable without qualms about the hero doing so.

Here's my confession: in a way...and I can't believe I'm typing this...while watching the film it was emotionally easier for me to justify and cheer the Pat/Tiffany romance if both of their marriages were already completely dissolved.

Oh, of course, absolutely. And that's part of my point in the piece Christian linked to above. I would argue that is part of the cultural work these films are doing is making the dissolution of a marriage more palatable, more acceptable. In ages or cultures where it's not, there has to be extreme, extenuating circumstances. As separation and re-marriage (or re-commitment) becomes more common it is less necessary, culturally, to do much more than show that the new relationship is in some way "better" (i.e. more likely to lead to personal happiness) in order to get people to accept and want the person to pursue it, but even now there are those whose interpretive strategies or personal beliefs are pro-first-and-only marriage and less inclined to root for the non-marriage relationship, so there will be films that really have to go out of their way, really stack the deck, to get you to want that. How can you not want someone to have the blessings of marriage (or at least a "chance" at that)? How cruel, (the world might say how archaic) to say his chance at a silver lining is one he can't take. Easier to say, "surely God knows the heart and will forgive" or "if she left him he is no longer bound by his own vows." In addition, in evangelical America most of the more scrupulous tend to be legalistic, and their claims are easier dismiss if we can convince ourselves that they don't really believe that staying single (if reconciliation is not possible) that Pat would be better off. For most of our culture "better off" means happier in the current moment, and a claim that saying no to that--or a chance at that--is, at best, foolishness, at worse (as dad says in his climatic speech) a "sin" against the cultural god of happiness.

Edited by kenmorefield

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With points #1 and #2, I attributed this to Pat's inability to actually face the reality of the situation of his marriage. I viewed it as the denial stage in grief for both Tiffany and Pat, who both wear rings after both of their marriages have ended

True, though when Tiffany claims she, too, is married, Pat pushes back and keeps saying, "but your husband is dead." Given Tiffany's occasional irritation at this and the realization that Pat thinks she is "more crazy" than he is, I find it hard to believe she wouldn't push back with "and your wife divorced you" if that were, in fact, the case. (I.e, with the reminder that he is no more married than she if he weren't.)

Edited by kenmorefield

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