I liked Silver Linings Playbook, but I also saw it in the best possible circumstances: in suburban Philadelphia, surrounded by suburban Philadelphians, a couple of miles down the road from the Llanerch Diner that had such a starring role in the movie, among other locales of my high school life. A week later, details of the movie’s plot have subsided in my memory, but David O. Russell’s careful habitation of the setting remains.
There’s an inevitable “Where’s Waldo” feeling when watching a movie filmed on familiar territory, and my Silver Linings Playbook audience didn’t overlook mistakes — Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper should have gotten flattened by near-expressway traffic as they walked across the street to the diner; when they leave, they sometimes manage to turn the corner to a movie theater several towns away. But those shortcuts happen even when movies film on their industry’s home turf. (I remember almost nothing of Something Borrowed, except that somehow Ginnifer Goodwin and John Krasinki managed to walk the three miles from the lobby of my financial district office building to the Madison Square Shake Shack in a few seconds.)
What Silver Linings Playbook got right more than anything else was the feeling of the suburbs and the houses where Cooper and Lawrence’s characters live with their families — a little cluttered, a little cramped, light-blue collar neighborhoods with yards and sidewalks that usually get overlooked next to the elegant Main Line of the better-known Philadelphia suburbs. Like Cooper’s character, I went jogging through that area last week, and Russell managed to reflect it well — it’s not glamorous, but it’s comfortable and real. Whatever other light flaws I found with the movie, it managed to convince me that the characters were truly at home in a place that was once mine.