Thursday, November 15, 2012

Why Silver Linings Playbook is the worst kind of sports movie

A movie that makes itself about the culture of a specific team and its tribe, much like a movie that makes itself about a video game, is doomed to failure and the sneering rants of the material and people it claims to know and show.

This is just a fact we fans of sports and movies must accept. We can accept fictionalized nonsense like Jerry Maguire and stylized insanity like Any Given Sunday, because they use mostly made-up players. What's harder to take is a movie that tries so hard to get things "accurate" but has no interest in the details.

Silver Linings Playbook, from NYC native director David O. Russell, is the worst type of sports movie.

It's a movie that Philadelphia Eagles fans will adore for all its references to the team and its fans' anxieties, traditions and hang-ups. It's a movie that Philadelphia Eagles fans will hate for its lack of consistency, existing in a meta-world in which the team has a smattering of players it's picked up (Nnamdi Asomugha), cut (Donovan McNabb) and traded away (Kevin Kolb) in the last few seasons.

The movie gets too many things right to get so much wrong. It understands the team's uncanny ability to inspire as much pride in its consistent, Andy Reid-infused competence and seething hatred of its consistent, Andy Reid-infused tendency to inexplicably collapse at crucial moments. It understands that the Eagles pet name to fans is "The Birds." It understands that the Eagles' fans are some of the most pathetic and downtrodden subsets of humanity, prone to sneering cynicism when the team wins, shame coupled with genuine shock when it flops — the same reaction of a dog when it's put outside for the third day in a row for chewing up the same sofa seat three days in a row — and ignorant, fierce loyalty that only a Cubs fan could sympathize with.

It's a movie that says a game against the Seahawks ended with a specific score, before later announcing a Seahawks game had a different score, incompatible with the first one — meaning either the screenwriters forgot they had already had characters reference the score earlier in the movie — or, more disconcertingly, that the movie takes place in a world in which the Eagles play the Seahawks twice in the regular season in the same year, a situation that's  impossible since the teams aren't in the same division.

Robert De Niro plays an obsessive-compulsive man who credits his superstitions for the team's success and blames the failures of his son, Pat (Bradley Cooper), who is recovering from breakdowns of his mind and marriage. His wife (Jacki Weaver) dons a Kevin Kolb jersey. Let's go ahead and excuse this as a commentary on her sense of misplaced nostalgia and loyalty, one that applies to the way she forgives Pat for flipping out and hitting her earlier in the movie.

What's inexcusable is a radio reference to Donovan McNabb (final Eagles season: 2009)  as the team's current quarterback, followed with a shot of a tailgating fan in a Nnamdi Asomugha (first Eagles season: 2011) jersey.

For the purposes of this movie, Michael Vick doesn't exist, which is just as well, given his lack of presence in box scores of his fantasy owners.

I have no allegiance to the Eagles, but as a fan of the Arizona Cardinals, winners of the last three matchups between the teams, I consider them my property and am disappointed to see my things mistreated.

2 comments:

grace crawford said...

A deft treatment of its delicate subject material and some remarkable performances that give the film both touching, raw, authentic emotion and a certain kinetic humor.

Grace Crawford (Visit Pet Moving Website)

Richard M. said...

The movie is set in 2008 when the novel was written.
Therefore at least half of your article's points have been discredited.