By Jesse Kornbluth
Published: Feb 14, 2013
“The Silver Linings Playbook” has been nominated for 7 Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay. (It’s the first film to be nominated in all four acting categories since “Reds,” in 1981.) Jennifer Lawrence, having won the Golden Globe for Best Actress, is likely to repeat at the Oscars. And if I were a betting man, I’d put money down on Robert De Niro as Best Supporting Actor.
“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” has exactly zero nominations. And yet, as I think about it, it strikes me as very much the same film as “Silver Linings Playbook” --- only better. (Who else thinks it got robbed at nomination time? Hilary Busis in Entertainment Weekly.)
The same film? Really?
“Silver Linings” is about a man (Bradley Cooper) who went nuts when his marriage collapsed and now thinks, wrongly, that he can get his old life back. He’s in therapy. He’s medicated. He’s also training like mad. What he most fervently believes: If he stays focused and upbeat, his life will work out. He never imagined that the vehicle would be a dance competition with Jennifer Lawrence as his partner.
“Perks” is about Charlie (Logan Lerman), a high school student with heavy baggage and one hope: that he’ll fit in at school and make friends. And he does --- with the freaks, notably the flamboyantly gay Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Patrick’s stepsister, Sam (Emma Watson). "Perks" has the usual high school issues: bullying, cliques, insecurity, sex, love, loneliness. Oh, and mental health. Patrick survives --- really: triumphs --- through his friendships. He makes a place for himself in his world. And, in the process, he remakes himself.
I find the presentation of the mental health issues in “Silver Linings” to be slick and shallow. The performances are compelling, but they can hardly be anything else: This is a brilliant entertainment that produces predictable tears --- Hollywood tears.
“Perks,” in contrast, seems to showcase less likeable, more exotic characters, and yet you can identify with them --- and love them as if their struggles are yours. Over and over as I watched it I thought: I’ve been there.
You’ve seen “Silver Linings.” And you loved it, didn’t you? Suggestion box: Make a head-to-head comparison test. See “Perks.” [To buy the DVD from Amazon, click here. To rent the video stream and watch now, click here.]
Here’s the preview:
From here, I should declare a Spoiler Alert --- these videos may reveal so much about the film that it might dent your pleasure when you see it.
Here’s the “Secret Santa” exchange. When Emma Watson looks at her gift….wow:
Here’s Charlie unknowingly getting stoned on a “brownie” at a New Year’s Eve party:
They play “Truth or Dare.” Charlie violates the code.
Patrick has a lover. A surprising lover. With a predictable outcome. And a surprising response from Charlie:
Then there’s The Kiss. And suddenly I was 15 again.
“Perks” began life as a novel. It’s testimony to novelist Stephen Chbosky that he scored a real coup: He directed the movie he adapted from his book. The novel has devoted fans, especially among teens. I am not one of them, but then… [To buy the paperback from Amazon, click here. For the Kindle edition, click here.]