Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I am an irrational person, or why I can't enjoy Silver Linings Playbook

I like the New York Giants. You all know this. I am not quiet about it. Consequently, I do not like the Philadelphia Eagles. I am not quiet about this either. In fact, when people ask me what the major deal-breakers I have when dating women are, I boil them down to something like "smokers, Republicans and Eagles fans." And I usually note that the smokers and Republicans are negotiable. I simply cannot imagine sitting on a couch on Sundays for 60 years listening to someone scream out "Fly, Eagles, Fly" 16 times a season -- or heaven forbid more than that. Really.

If one had to peg the sports franchise I dislike the most, the Eagles would probably be the winners -- in a walk. The Dallas Cowboys may be the first team I learned to hate, but the Eagles were the first I learned to loathe, and that kind of emotion runs deep.

It is because of this that I had been wary about seeing -- or at least spending any money to see -- the widely-praised Oscar-nominated film Silver Linings Playbook. Yes, it has Robert De Niro, who just might be the best actor of his time, and yes, Jennifer Lawrence isn't half bad looking and is pretty good at the whole acting thing, too, and yes it is supposed to be a fine, fine film, and yes, it does provide definitive proof once and for all that Chris Tucker is still alive (which I was oddly reminded of in my e-mail this afternoon). But it also happens to have main characters -- and a plot -- that are deeply entrenched in their love for and have their lives enormously affected by the Philadelphia Eagles, and that, for whatever petty, stupid reasons I may have, just didn't appeal to me one bit. I simply couldn't comprehend enjoying a film if the Eagles were in any way positively reflected.

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't necessarily think anything at all associated with the Iggles is pure evil. I actually call some Eagles fans (well, two of them) among my friends and I've even tried to be magnanimous about it once in a while, so at worst the Eagles organization and its fans are maybe only 98.7% pure evil, but the simple fact remains that the city of Philadelphia, its sports teams and often its fans during my visits have always stuck in my craw. I have had no visit to the City of Brotherly Love for a sporting event in which I was not heckled or criticized for wearing my own team's colors in a way that was more consistent, inappropriate or predictable than one would find anywhere else. Of the 23 major league sports teams in the United States' Northeast Megalopolis, the Philadelphia Eagles are the lone team I have yet to see in person, and while this isn't intentional, it hasn't really been accident either.

Basically, if you're reading between the lines here, I don't much like the Eagles.

So, when I finally sat down last night and watched the first movie to be nominated for all four acting Oscars in 32 years (that's Reds, if you're wondering), I was uneasy about digesting it, but prepared myself to take it in with an open mind. After all, many of the Philadelphia fans I know told me the film doesn't so much glorify Eagles fans as it does present them as the unbalanced, boorish bunch that they are. I didn't find that to be the case exactly. While the fans weren't glorified, they weren't really presented, totally, as the bastion of evil they clearly are either.

Truthfully, though, this isn't really where my issues with the movie lie. For one thing, the film suffers from the same thing all romantic comedies I see suffer in that the ending, which I will try not to give away, essentially is something that you will never see in reality. This is a significant problem for a movie that for its first hour and 45 minutes does a fairly good job of not only creating complex characters with real problems they have to deal with, but is also more or less grounded in a serious environment that, while it can have fun poked at it, is not always a smooth ride for the people that live in it.

On a sillier, but more personal level is the pivotal tailgating scene in which the Eagles fans are a green-bedecked fun-loving bunch that just wants to have a good time before seeing their Iggles trounce the Giants. Is this an inaccurate representation? Well, for many Eagles fans that tailgate on Sundays, probably not, but that doesn't mean someone who roots for the Giants has to be comfortable sitting through it. So many parts of it seemed wrong or unseemly, like watching Darth Vader and some storm troopers carousing and having a gay old time. I also have trouble with the gambler who's going to be taking all of Robert De Niro's money (and thus, is the bad guy) is overtly rooting for the Giants and decked out in blue and red (this character also wears a Cowboys jersey during the climax, which is just all kinds of ludicrous). It might be the worst representation of the Giants on film since Big Fan, but in that film the Eagles fan foil was equally as unstable and irrational. At least in the Eagles-centric Invincible, the resident Giants fan was played by Elizabeth Banks.

And then there's the most egregious error in the mix -- a real, historical one. The film takes place over the latter half of the Eagles' 2008 season, which is one of particular emotional difficulty and import to me. For those who recall, that season saw the Giants, defending-champions, looking like a solid bet to be only the eighth repeat Super Bowl winners in history after an 11-1 start, which was sidetracked when wide receiver Plaxico Burress inexplicably shot himself in the leg by accident. While that incident is not explicitly mentioned in the film, the movie does touch on a) Desean Jackson's hilarious pre-end zone spike against the Cowboys b) the Phillies winning the NLCS (and eventually the World Series), another unsavory moment for me c) the Eagles' season finale against the Cowboys and d) the Giants-Eagles game in Philadelphia, the pregame tailgate of which plays the setting of one of the films most pivotal moments.

The Eagles' win over the Cowboys that season earned them a playoff berth that eventually led to them upsetting the Giants in the second round of the postseason -- a moment that has particularly bothered me over the four years since because the final four teams left standing afterward (Philadelphia, Arizona, Baltimore, Pittsburgh) were all teams the Giants had beaten during the regular season, three of them on the road. But there also seems to be a continuity error with when the tailgating sequence should take place. In all likelihood, my own mental neuroses are the culprits for why I can't enjoy this movie, but the fact remains that the point in the season in which the Giants-Eagles game in Philadelphia takes place, while somewhat murky, appears to be near the conclusion of the season, due to plot factors that place it one week ahead of the season finale against Dallas.

In actuality, the last time the Giants played the Eagles in 2008 was in early December, one week after Burress' errant misfire, and unlike the game in the film it was won by the Eagles and was played in Giants Stadium. Another inaccuracy: the tailgate appears to be an early morning at least early afternoon game, which would seem unreasonable since the game the Giants did play in Philadelphia that season (which, as the movie states, they did win), was not only two months before the game against the Cowboys, but was played at night on NBC, meaning an early afternoon tailgate might have been unreasonable, and the scene after the tailgate in which everyone is gathered at Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro's house would have had to take place sometime around 1 or 2 in the morning. While I suppose that's feasible, something about it doesn't smell right. Add into this that the film also gets the score of a midseason game against the Seahawks wrong -- even though it does get the score of the final game against Dallas right -- and it feels as if there are several incorrect minor details that wouldn't have taken very much effort to get right.

Sure, this all seems nitpicky, and since the Eagles' season is less the center of the film than a vessel for telling a love story, most of you will probably tell me that these particular details that bother me are utterly besides the point of the movie -- and that doesn't even touch on my irrational disdain for the Eagles themselves. But if a movie is going to embed itself into the sports and stories of our recent path with facts and figures that are so easy to accurately obtain, I don't think it's so ridiculous to ask that it does so. For those reasons, I had difficulty sitting down and enjoying what otherwise would have been a perfectly good -- though I certainly hesitate to say "great" -- movie, even if it did have some fantastic dialogue and proved that Bradley Cooper actually has some acting chops. Then again, for perfectly understandable reasons, I don't particularly like him either.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go yell at some kids on my lawn.


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