(Apex left it as a comment here but I thought it deserved a separate post)
Don’t get me wrong, this is certainly a good film, but nothing kills a good product than overhype and overpraise. Overheard some folks today who were praising this to the skies, making it appear like some bonafide modern cult classic, which it surely is not!!Now what makes this film appear better to some than it really is? (in my humble opinion)
This plot device of integrating ball-room dancing and semi-serious/seriocomic elements of ‘traditional’ romcoms with dark topics of addiction & neuroses gets people thinking just to tickle them into believing they are seeing something novel and ‘thought-provoking’ (but not enough to really make them ‘disturbed’!). The females (at least the ones I heard anecdotally) loved Cooper pursuing his ex-wife even after being jailed, even after catching her in the shower with another guy and even to the point of becoming a stalker ‘technically’. Because hey, its ok to be a stalker as long as you are desirable and good-looking ahem. For the guys there was enough to latch on. The oldies seem to love this whole ‘family thing’ and the whole obsession and betting angle of deNiro and who can forget his crying!! And last but not the least, a widower trying to sort out her vacuum in life by sleeping around and claiming proudly that she has ‘slept with everyone at her workplace’!! Now this gets brownie points in the Oscars old guys club—this sort of meterial is a sign of ‘emoting talent’!!
It has always been a curiosity of mine whether this so-called ‘sex addiction’ is actually technically a ‘psychiatric disorder’ or just someone not keeping control of his/her mental (& physical discipline!). In other words, is it a psychological issue or a disciplinary/law and order issue. Any psychiatrist(s) reading this are welcome to answer this please. The one really original point I thought came out of this film was the concept of shared treatment of neuroses by ‘intermingling of the sufferers’ and letting the rough edges rub off each other. Perhaps one dysfunctional person empathises with another and this interface leads to therapeutic effects?
Now pasting some random thoughts I posted earlier elsewhere –
If there was a recent film for psychiatrists and their ‘clients’, this is one of them. Cooper plays a bipolar who returns to his parents and tries to win back his estranged wife. And to help him, he takes the help of (listen to this!) a recently widowed sexual addiction patient Jen Lawrence. To mix it up (and keep the target audience happy, Jen Law agrees to help him in return of a favour –hold on, not what you think—but to partner her in a dancing competition. Now doesn’t this ‘twist’ remind one of the convenient Bollywood screenplays. But hey, the Oscars seem to have found the same thing inventive and ‘original’. Cooper and Jen share their neuroses and that helps them ‘cope’ with it better. No, it doesn’t end there. His dad De Niro aint ‘normal’ either. He has OCD and has gambling/ superstition addictive tendencies. Dig deeper and remember reading somewhere that even the director has a history of psychos in his family. And apparently this is based on a novel and the writer was himself an ex-depressed !
Jen Law can act but she didn’t deserve the award. My views are unchanged. Theres something about the role and her ‘character’ (or the lack of it) that won the Oscar oldies over, it seems. Also theres something about these explosive screeching acts that people find impressive. A parallel closer Bollywood is something like karisma and even Kajol have been indulging in and getting away with awards sometimes. Also to add, Jen Law seems fine but I do not find her attractive from any angle, dunno why. Brad Cooper is better than his usual self and conveys some vulnerability and intensity. But it’s a bit like Saif-no matter how many ‘langda tyagis’ he does, I will love him more in his trademark urbane salaam namastes, Love aaj kals and Cocktails. Just like cooper was ace in Hangover and the Wedding crasher (and should stay in that world!!). Robert De Niro brings back some ‘dignity’ and ’class’ to this setup inspite of having a smallish role. Anupam Kher does well, I think, as the indian psychiatrist.
Triggers–That was an interesting concept and seemingly well depicted especially the relation to music. The depiction of bipolars, OCDs seemed reasonable though would need a psychiatrists opinion. Also the way all this ‘serious stuff’ is intermingled into this romance and ballroom dancing is creditable for Hollywood (though would have been an easy task for the likes of kjo, Aditya). Spoilers ( don’t matter though)—All this business of ‘good luck charms’ and ‘reading/interpreting the signs’ reminded me of DTPH!!
The other issues I have
‘Love heals all’-well, it is a good thing in principle. But does it mean or intend to show all the psychos around to stop taking their pills and fall into love. That would be a dangerous proposition, isn’t it? Having said that, there is perhaps an un/intended ‘hook’ there. Perhaps I wasn’t paying enough attention but Cooper stopped taking his meds in between. (but beyond a point, one stops caring)
Using bipolars as a plot device does seem somewhat unethical. But its not new and it appears that Oscars have a weakness for anything portraying deranged minds and disability. Also there may be a ‘genetic’ link to the mental problems shared around here that the film may have delved further into.
The ‘Shame’ Connection
I don’t think this has been mentioned before but did strike me while viewing it. I am also unsure whether this ‘sex addiction’ condition is being over represented by Hollywood recently for its own fetishistic ends. Note the association with McQueens Shame wherein Fassbenders sex addiction takes ‘centrestage’. The issue with Fassbender was his problems with ‘intimacy’ where he suddenly stopped ‘functioning’. While ‘Shame’ is a complex slightly dark analysis of addiction and mental issues, SLP intends to take a similar theme(s) and makes it more ‘playful’ and ‘audience friendly’ by adding in ballroom dancing and the romance angle. Though the lead cast act through their skins (relatively speaking) and deliver ‘their’ best performance to date, perhaps the lack of genuine acting skills and sheer charisma showed through (to me!)
& yes to add an afterthought…
For anyone who care for spoilers, there is another one ahead—there is a ‘happy’ ending (for those who couldn’t spot it from the first poster itself!) It didn’t deserve an oscar (under any category) but it did deserve a sequel—only to figure out if Jen Laws sexual addiction ‘neuroses’ did resolve after the so-called happy ending! One can already sense the guys nodding in agreement and handing out another Oscar to Jen Law for that …