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Hammerle on ... 'Life of Pi'; 'Silver Linings Playbook'

Robert Hammerle
February 27, 2013
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hammerle022713Life of Pi

“Life of Pi” is a cinematic philosophical painting of human existence. It is a metaphysical dissertation that dissects every human being’s continual fight to add some meaning to our short stay on this convoluted Earth. Death is faced head on, and is treated as nothing more than every human’s exit door.

What director Ang Lee has done is to bring to the screen the functional equivalent of a post-graduate Philosophy of Man class. It is giving nothing away to reveal that the extraordinary adventures of a marvelous young man are told in hindsight when he reaches middle age and is living in Canada, and his revelations to a young, interested author adds another moving dimension to the film itself.

In summary, we see the young star of our film, Pi Patel (Surai Sharma), growing up in India as his parents maintain an expanding zoo. Pi is a curious young lad, not to mention a serious student of life, which includes trying to determine if there is one religion that he should embrace.
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Suffering financial difficulties, his family is forced to move to Canada, planning on stopping in the Philippines on the way to sell their animals. This breaks Pi’s heart, in large part because of his fascination with their untamed Bengal tiger, named Richard Parker.

Tragically, the ship sinks in a terrible storm, and the traumatized Pi ends up on a lifeboat with several animals, one being Richard Parker. Inevitably, one of the most difficult moments in the film is when the animals hear the call of the wild and turn on each other, forcing Pi to dangle off the bow of the boat to stay alive. These are crushing scenes, which are made all the more devastating as young Pi must come to grips with the fact that his family has died.

However, don’t avoid this film because you feel it is far too traumatic for your taste. What evolves is magical by any definition. Richard Parker and Pi are forced to deal with one another, and the cinematography of this film will grab your heart as it elevates your soul.

Quite frankly, the cinematographer, Claudio Miranda, deserved an Oscar for his incredible mastery. There are a series of overwhelming scenes involving the sea magically reflecting the presence of numerous jellyfish; a whale leaping into the air as it nearly misses Pi’s tiny boat; a moment where Pi and Richard Parker are nearly overwhelmed when they pass through a monumental school of flying, aggressive fish and a terrific scene where the boat lands against a moving island that is completely occupied by millions of curious meerkats.

Does Pi ever recover? What happens to Richard Parker? Is his story completely accurate, and do you really care even if it isn’t? Why did I cry frequently through Pi’s enchanting crisis? See it and let it wash over you.

Silver Linings Playbook

To steal the phrase from the old song by Fleetwood Mac, “Silver Linings Playbook” “makes loving fun.” It is provocative, playful, profane, creative and terribly funny. Simply stated, it knocks on the door of cinematic greatness.

What director David O. Russell has brought us is a love story that mirrors life. There are no gimmicks or cuteness, just an engrossing story about battered, flawed people trying to rise above their weaknesses. In other words, it is a tale about characters from the real world, and you won’t be able to risk embracing every last one of them for it.

Bradley Cooper plays Pat, a young man about to be released following eight months of confinement in a psychiatric institution. He returns home to live with his doting parents who are wrestling with their own issues.

The father, in an Oscar-worthy performance by Robert DeNiro, spends most of his time fixated on the Philadelphia Eagles and his bookie operation. He wants his son back on his feet, and tragically thinks the best course of action is to spend as much time as possible watching his beloved Eagles.

Mr. Cooper’s mother is played by Jacki Weaver, fresh off her Oscar-nominated performance in the film hardly anyone has seen, “Animal Kingdom” (2010). Here she is a mother with a broken heart who just wants to give her son a second chance, a far cry from her mother hen role in “Animal Kingdom” whereham rate 2 she lovingly provided a home for her three murderous psychopathic sons.

Mr. Cooper is magnificent as a bipolar guy who wants to heal, but just doesn’t know how. And it is at this moment that the movie explodes into the cinematic stratosphere with the appearance of Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany, an equally troubled neighbor. Her husband, a police officer, was recently killed while helping a motorist. She lost her job when she succumbed to having sex with all of her co-workers, and you can only marvel at her when she doesn’t run from the ugly truth.

It is simply remarkable that Ms. Lawrence has emerged in such a brief period of time into a magnificently gifted actress. As beautiful as she is, she continually breathes life into flawed characters. It began with her Oscar-nominated role in “Winter’s Bone” (2010). “The Hunger Games” (2012) was a justifiable hit, and she nailed her starring role perfectly. Here, she lives in a remodeled garage behind her parents’ home, and somehow her shortcomings become her strengths.

Without giving the plot away, it centers around Mr. DeNiro’s foolish financial risks gambled on the Eagles and Ms. Lawrence convincing Mr. Cooper to be her partner in a local dance contest. The events become joined, and seldom will you ever find yourself rooting for contestants who are average at best.

Though it forces us to confront our imperfections, I can assure you that you will be grinning like the proverbial kid in a candy store when leaving the theater.•

__________

Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or working diligently in his Pennsylvania Street office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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