Silver Linings Playbook: Dramatic-comedy, Comi-tragedy or Tragi-comedy? Does it matter? Questioning the Contaminated Modern Comedy.

Evelyn Greenslade (Judy Dench), a romantic optimist in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel:                                       “The only real failure is the failure to try and the measure of success is how we cope with disappointment as we always must. We came here and we tried; all of us in our different ways. Can we be blamed for feeling that we are too old to change, too scared of disappointment to start it all again? We get up in the morning and we do our best. Nothing else matters.”

It has been many months now since Silver Linings Playbook delighted the public and annoyed the highbrow cinephile critics of New York and elsewhere.  After observing how some reviewers (see Richard Brody, The New Yorker, Nov. 21, 2012; and David Denby, The New Yorker, Dec. 24, 2012; and Robbie Collin, The Daily Telegraph, Nov. 22, 2012) had severely criticized the movie as a problematic romantic comedy with a cheesy Hollywood resolution to allow an audience-pleasing happy ending, I might have taken a more intellectual approach to acquiring a clear understanding of how precisely the plot action worked or not.  However, the above serious critics of plot and character development take their cues for critique from literature, especially Brody.  Principles of good storytelling from the pen of none other than Ernest Hemingway himself are brought up for criticism of Silver Linings’ script.  It lacked this and that character development, changed its tune from drama to situation comedy, etc. etc.  It’s also quite significant that Pat Solitano Jr. (Bradley Cooper) chose to criticize Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms for its tragically black ending after what had been narratively presented as, penultimately, a successful romance.  Bi-polar Pat Jr., quite beside himself to win back the love of his now estranged wife, will not brook further disenchantment even in melodramatic literary contrivances.  His romantic illusion and the tailspin he suffers with various omens of disappointment are part and parcel of the situation, which comedic or pathetic, is at the heart of the story.    

 A film such as Silver Linings Playbook (hereafter SLP), with several over-the-top, cockamamie characters—almost everyone’s neurosis is displayed at one time or another to show how lives are indelibly flawed–didn’t seem to require heavy explication.   To be sure, it has much drama in the first act, but comedic elements are introduced in that act also.   Emotions and humor are whipped up in many different ways in people watching a movie, carrying them through impossible-to-deny gaffes and clichés. It isn’t reasoning that’s involved so much in the course of watching a comedic drama, or dramatic comedy (“dramedy” as some dub them) as are the emotions; we don’t have to take the film personally.  (Some viewers may see themselves, a family member, or a family situation in the film’s motifs about bi-polar or OCD personalities and this will affect their ability to see the humor.)  At least, I’d add, no analytically clear understanding is necessary for me regarding most comedies, dramatic or romantic; I don’t expect verisimilitude in the genre. I do expect a happy ending—an essential element of comedy–with the struggling “losers” or underdogs eventually winning, or surmounting the crisis, i.e. the conflict, contest or competition, that is at the heart of the plot.  And I must have received some emotional satisfaction, for my normal cinephile intuitions did not kick up a logical fuss about it.  In viewing comedies I’ve learned to enjoy laughing at the miscreants or “losers,” and then later I realize I have come to laugh with them as they succeed.

There is no doubt about a contaminated form in the composition of SLP:  first act is largely dramatic; second act is family situation comedy, with romantic comedic intimations; the third act becomes more fully romantic comedy and finally farce (the dance competition).  Comedies, or dramas that get perverted into comedies, are not very important in the scheme of film history, and certainly not in the tradition of serious film awards—if you can call the Academy Awards a serious or academic film institution.  The awards success, along with the long extended run with mammoth box-office revenue, makes SLP exceptional in our time.  Very seldom do comedies or their cast get in the final short-list categories against the dramatic contenders for best prizes.  It was many years ago that romantic comedies and screwball types of the Katherine Hepburn match-ups with Cary Grant, James Stewart or Spencer Tracy won the day (the George Cukor and Howard Hawkes films of the 40s and early 50s) with their predictable narrative patterns and inevitable audience-pleasing characters.  (One characteristic of antique comedies was the speed of speech—fast, contentious ping-pong rapport.  I guess one can still see/hear the gabble in the modern half-hour comic TV sitcoms.  Really, though, in the past comedy films, the speech was frenetic, which tended to cut down the film’s running time.  Rapid, unbroken dialog was indicative of screwball comedy:  the characters spoke with such glibness and at lightning speed, it made it difficult to imagine that life or relationships were like that in the 1930s and 40s.)  Later romantic comedies tended to have more even- paced dialog and somewhat believable life-styles—with heavy license for unbelievable leisure time for work-free character engagements.  SLP manages to find such free time for the characters of Pat Jr. and Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) to meet and engage through their both being out-of-work convalescents, both living under the supervision of their family members.  In the dramatic first act, their dialog does have a degree of comedic rapid-fire glibness, especially in their meeting for dinner at Tiffany’s sister’s (Julia Stiles as Veronica) house; the lack of ease and staccato exchange is symptomatic of the contentious rapport one found in the Hepburn-Grant-Tracy screwball comedy.  The idiosyncratic mixture of comedic and dramatic styles marks SLP as a very avant-garde experiment.     

The Atlantic magazine (March 2013 issue) arrived when SLP was still hot in the indie-cinemas three months following its openings in the Northwest; it contained an article about the state of romantic comedies, entitled “Why Romantic Comedies Are So Bad?”  Regarding SLP, the reviewer Christopher Orr writes, “David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook may have had a rom-com structure, but it was darker and more idiosyncratic, with a premise at once novel and true to life: two lovers thwarted by mental illness. Better still was Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, which offered as its obstacle an ironic update of the old parental-disapproval plot: young Sam and Suzy can’t run off together and get married because they’re twelve years old. (It’s an obstacle that, incidentally, is not presented as insurmountable).”  At least, here, Orr is willing to concede that there is surprising novelty at work in Russell’s and Anderson’s idiosyncratic films, quite incongruous with the traditional comedy styles.  As the film genre of twinning romance and comedy with a serious plot situation continues to change and develop–and why shouldn’t it?—audiences will have to adjust their attitudes and senses of humor to enjoy the novelty.  Many treatises exist on the theory of humor, and the subject has not been depleted of interest for scholars.  Surprise has always been a major characteristic of humor and we who laugh at the folly of characters’ lives are admittedly seeing and vicariously feeling what happens from a secure, superior position.   This is all in the nature of humor.   Humor has often been played as a social game to put other people down and to raise oneself up. 

Ron Boothe, who hosts the Tacoma Film Club blog site, has written an insightful query and interpretation in “Silver Linings Playbook Playback,” (see in the 2013 categories of this site).  In seeking convincing cause-and-effect relationships, Ron’s concern to reconcile his initial disappointment of full emotional appreciation of the film is understandable.  The psychological dispositions of the characters, manic-depressive Pat and psychically traumatized Tiffany, would appeal to a psychologist’s interest to notice plausibility of characterization.  With Pat Jr. being released from eight months’ psych ward incarceration into the custody of his mother, Dolores (Jackie Weaver), the first act of SLP, as mentioned above, devotes more action to serious life drama than comedy, even with periodic comedic antics intruding, such as Pat’s inmate friend, Danny (Chris Tucker), having wangled his way out of the prison to take a lift with Pat and Dolores into freedom.  Here Danny’s glibness and rapid speech, which must have been impressive for him to gain release, shows the typical comedic mannerism.  He’s a con-artist.  The real-life dramatic opening may, therefore, have set some audiences’ minds against easily suspending disbelief when the film later turned to comedic vignettes.  It was, however, obvious from the disbelieving looks and from protests of Dolores and father, Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro) that Pat’s desire to return to his marriage was quite impossible, for, in the scheme of things, Pat Jr. was forbidden to visit his wife; she still had a restraining order against his approaching her home.  Cuckolded, Pat had violently beaten up his wife’s paramour after catching them in flagrante.  Once the situation is established, with minimal back story, for myself, I can’t say I felt a need to account for this movie’s being consistently true to real life, or even so tight in its story-line, by any meticulous tracking of character development.  Indie comedy can be experimental; logic and science do not easily account for what audiences find funny.  However, I have now myself seen the film a second time to notice more carefully the foreshadowing moments or signals of things comedic and otherwise that emerge in the developing plot.  In my second viewing, I noticed broader laughter among the audience who had perhaps been influenced by on-going publicity of its success. 

As mentioned in the Atlantic article above, SLP is a David O. Russell film, and this alerted me to the possibility of dramatic zaniness merging with comic performances, sometimes more ironic than overtly laugh-out-loud.  Besides knowing the director’s previous work, I saw the preview several times, which gave indications of an All-in the-Family comedy, its situations arousing crises, with much anger, frustration, and disagreement among the characters.  Pat Sr. was not a bigoted Archie Bunker, but De Niro played a loveable curmudgeon with a maddening OCD frustration regarding the precise placement of TV remote controls and otherwise being in charge of his own home and its scheduled regime.  The “Edith”-like mother Weaver played as a decent, thoroughly common-sense, simple care-giver, anxious for the mental health of her husband and son.  Her facial language is quite marvelously comic, full of an awareness of the unexpected as though any minute she’ll see a horror, her tired eyes agape like saucers as if having just spied a ghost.  The parental casting aside, however, it is obvious, anyway you cut the story, that unblinking naïve Cooper and beautiful coal-eyed Lawrence in the leading male and female roles reveal in their face-to-face gazes they are destined for romantic engagement.  In the street running scenes, the surprise meetings as Tiffany jumps out from behind a tree or from off-screen are bound to startle and amuse, but no one can deny that Tiffany is chasing Pat, literally and metaphorically.  Rom-com (romantic-comedy), whether such classification aptly fits or not, became the key word by which to classify the film from prior observations.

Applying logic or literary analysis of the script or plot was not my way of approaching SLP and finding it an unquestionable comedic success.  First of all I was infected with the laughter and chuckling reactions of the person with whom I initially viewed the film.  By contagion, my laughter joined that of other pockets of viewers who obviously saw the funny side of the situation quite early in the game.  Part of the problem of synthesizing harmoniously SLP’s bipolarity of serio-comic story-telling about truly troubled romantic characters is that one is dealing with a David O. Russell presentation.  The history of a filmmaker’s career, both the failures and successes, is one aspect that I would think needs to be treated in order to analyze the virtues and vices of SLP.   Like Wes Anderson–Rushmore (1998), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), The Darjeeling Limited (2007), and Moonrise Kingdom (2012)–Russell seeks out zaniness in unpredictable projects.  Both Anderson’s and Russell’s films often defy neat classifications by genre.  Unorthodox approaches to narrative are germane to both of these young filmmakers. One just has to consider the sequence of Russell’s oeuvre from Spanking the Monkey (1994), Flirting with Disaster (1996), Three Kings (1999), I Huckabees (2004), and The Fighter (2010).  Both the appreciative (“I think it’s kinda interesting”) and the critical stance (“What is really going on here?”) in the viewer seem to vacillate constantly while watching the twists and turns of these films.  In them, likeable but troubled characters speak with sincerity about their problems and act with passionate commitment for rational solutions to crises, but the circumstances of life’s situation, not to mention the manic optimism, make the characters’ intentions appear bound for failure and disappointment.  Seldom do Russell’s films terminate in total failure.  The romantic spirit in not succumbing to failure is what buoys up his film’s direction.  Russell constantly focuses on unstable characters and often volatile family situations that oscillate with absurd comic behaviors in one frequency and serious attention to solutions in another. 

It is sometimes in the pattern of stories that they lead to expected endings.  Let’s consider the family dynamics of his past success, The Fighter (2010), which like SLP, became an acclaimed Russell film, again a serio-comic drama, with nominations and awards to boot. Think of Christian Bale’s Dicky Eklund:  once the family’s great hope as boxer, Dicky has now become a weird wretch, an ex-con and crack-addled mind, who feels he’s being interviewed for an HBO documentary on his life, after which he’ll be able to make a boxing comeback.  Even his purported fame as the contender who knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard was a delusion.  He is as deluded about his present fate as Pat Jr. is about prospects of his recovery to mental and physical fitness and his wife’s subsequent acceptance of his changed personality.  Sadly, in The Fighter, Dicky is the HBO subject to illustrate abject drug-addiction, not for any career possibilities.  Alice, the ruthless matriarch of the family, played superbly by Marissa Leo, is surrounded by a supportive gang of cantankerous, vulgar Bacchantes, seven sisters in all, and all supportive of helplessly unreliable Dicky. Wildly optimistic, Alice the Manager urges her dependable son, boxer Micky Ward, played by Mark Wahlberg, to save the day, even though her management has not been helpful to him in past boxing bouts.  The ugly sisters harangue him to train and all bets are placed on his success in a main match.  Seeing Micky as the exploited good-guy and stable, sensible member of the family, Amy Adams, his bar-tender girl-friend, a fury in her own right, wishes her beau would give up the greedy family clutches.  She doubts their relationship can survive this antagonistic and exploitative clan. But just as rom-com movies have their Hollywood happy ending, so do boxing biopic films.  Dutiful Micky succeeds with unpredictable late flurry of knockout punches, just short of his own collapse from a brutal beating in the ring.  Whoopee!  Micky saves the day.  Crazy characters, wild optimism, dysfunctional family, outrageous betting on improbable success, and yet the whole family and fan-crew are on hand to cheer on their “dark horses” to improbable success.  Is not this in many ways the pattern of Silver Linings?

Fortunately, in Russell’s stories, one can count on characters to surmount most crises, at least partially; though, as life goes on, who can tell what’s next?   When in life is there complete success?  Count no man happy until…?  Ron Boothe’s solution to SLP’s farcical romantic conclusion is to see an omen of tragedy that will emerge in the future of Pat and Tiffany’s progress as a couple.  This fits by analogy with the Hemingway novel that irked Pat in the early scene of manic-depressive upset.  To find a solution, however, beyond the intrinsic plot, imagining a return to verisimilitude of serious life drama, is a personal wish.  If one interprets SLP by comparison with other Russell film patterns, one thing becomes certain:  Russell will at all costs seek an upbeat resolution, and one compatible with as many characters’ psychic states.  The Fighter’s script may have been considered quite a mess:  far too many quarreling sides, too many problems for one boxer-family member to solve, and yet we have a crazy happy family and faithful girlfriend when all is done.  Playbooks script may be merely a mess, analyzed critically and arch-rationalistically, (“How can this damaged manic-depressive couple find a common purpose beyond romantic infatuation, solve their family’s antagonisms, cover all bets, and stay on course with their meds?”).  Yet it was a successful mess theatrically, enjoyed emotionally, because of the charming performances of the stars to carry us viewers through the gauntlet of narrative peculiarities and romantic-comedic clichés. Tiffany, honest to a fault, constantly harped on the theme that nobody’s perfect, each person struggles against who she is and who she wants to be. Danny Ortiz, a well-known comic face, plays Pat’s friend Ronnie and Tiffany’s brother-in-law.  From being ostensibly a stable, prosperous married man in the film’s first act, Ronnie gradually shows the anxiety and madness he suffers as Veronica’s hen-pecked husband.   The revelation of insanity in his friend’s marital life (even to the point of suggesting suicide) simply does not faze Pat, for he wishes to deny all but the possibility of sanity and harmony in his married life to come.  Ronnie, like Tiffany, offers Pat a chance to see that romance and marriage are not all they are imagined to be.    

It’s interesting to me how few reviewers and critics took time to consider the idiosyncratic narrative of character and plot in other Russell’s films; at least some comparison would have been in order to show, critically speaking, he’s not far off his directorial purpose in making Silver Linings Playbook.  Being right on course, true to his purpose, Russell must have been mightily amused that many critics found multiple flaws to point out and wondered why they wished to rein him in artistically.  Few filmmakers are regularly working with such an iconoclastic hybrid type of comedy. Please, let the artist experiment!

Sad as it may seem to analysts of drama and tight comedy, magic emerges out of madness in films that appeal to audiences starved of both romance and comedy.  In regards to comedies, it’s always been necessary to suspend disbelief to laugh heartily, not to have the mind screwed up into puzzle solving.

Looking at SLP for plausible motivation for complete happiness and success at the comedic—i.e. happy—conclusion is probably a vain delusion on the viewer’s part.  “No manure, no magic” concludes an angst-ridden environmentalist (Jason Schwartzman) in Russell’s I Huckabees.  The neurotic Schwartzman does not realize full satisfaction of his quest to save a green-belt of woods the Huckabee Corporation would like to decimate.  But, like Pat and Tiffany, the romantic ecologist is partially successful and feels some gain in that.  In 1999’s Three Kings, desert weary soldiers of the 1991 failed, futile US- Iraq Gulf War find the underground shelter where Saddam Hussein’s cache of gold bullion has been stored.  They imagine, with purely mercenary motives, they can steal several bags of ingots and make the war worthwhile for themselves.  Their stratagem fails, but instead they are able to free a band of anti-Saddam prisoners to reach safety.  Then the soldiers give most of the bullion to the homeless desert families to help them with their future refugee life.  Partial success; questionable future.  Once questioned, the wholly happy ending does fizzle. 

 So it is with SLP.   Both Pat Jr. and Tiffany are still unemployed and hardly employable, still living dependent on parents, and though we may think of their dance experience as a successful “win,” their jury score was indicative of very low marks and other dancers could not fathom what the Solitano crew had to feel jubilant about. Like the final leap and uplift of Pat and Tiffany’s dance routine, which was the main hearty guffaw moment of the film, the farcical-comedic resolution was a partial or failed uplift.  The dancing element was successful only to bring the couple together for focusing and centering, to test their discipline, reliability, and trust, aspects of their characters in short supply. Certainly, dance therapy is not a permanent cure, but it asks for the partners to rise to new, more stable behaviors.  Although the barter between dance contest and the letter delivery to Pat’s wife seemed sudden and contrived, there was foreshadowing when Pat was introduced to Tiffany at their first dinner engagement: the statement was made by Veronica that Tiffany was interested in dance; she had “a thing for dance.”  The dance “success,” however, would have meant little without the parlay betting on the Philadelphia Eagles game, which was huge success for Pat Sr.  There is a long tradition in comedies that no matter how contaminated the plot becomes, all’s well that ends well.      

 David O. Russell would have approved of Evelyn Greenslade’s (Judy Dench) romantic paradigm, again, from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel:

 But it is also true that the person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing. All we know about the future is that it would be different. Perhaps what we fear is that it would be the same. So we must celebrate the changes because as someone once said, ‘Everything will be alright in the end. And if it’s not alright, then trust me, it’s not yet the end.’”


Further Considerations about the Serious Comedy

“The possibility of mixing styles is an aspect of modern cinematic art that is just beginning to be explored.” (Stanley J. Solomon in The Film Idea (New York:  Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, c1972.)

When film scholar Stanley J. Solomon said that film art was moving away from literary plotting and character development as directors found their own styles, he was thinking of stylists such as Antonioni, Fellini, Visconti, Godard, Resnais and Truffaut.   Of course, he wasn’t considering comedies.  But comedies of mixed styles, though not always rom-com, have been around for decades.  The problem with comedies, whether foreign or American, is that they are becoming very difficult for most reviewers and critics to categorize.  In the list of the 100 best comedies of all time, Woody Allen would have Bananas, Take the Money and Run, and Annie Hall somewhere in the numbers 25 to 55.  However, think how different the first two yuck-fests are from the more cerebral Annie Hall.  Even in the comedy genre there are directors of the modern “auteur” status.  Woody Allen fits that role in his many “comedies.”  Even his latest success Midnight in Paris (2011) was an example of his changing styles, one of them being his absence from the cast.  

It is my contention that today’s experimental comedies are contaminated, i.e. mixed, and two of the iconoclastic stylists are Wes Anderson and David O. Russell.  I could put into that class the bizarre comedies of the Coen brothers (e.g. Raising Arizona, Fargo, A Serious Man), the understated works by Richard Linklater (e.g. Slacker, Bernie) and even the Farrelly brothers’ vehicle for droll—verging on hysterical–Jack Black, Shallow Hal.  Many years ago, I took some academic colleagues to see Raising Arizona, because I thought it would be a zany new type of comedy, with an excellent cast (Nicholas Cage, Holly Hunter, John Forsythe).  The couple never cracked a smile and looked squarely at my wife and me afterwards to ask: “What piece of idiocy was that?  What’s funny about two insane and pathetically doltish grownups attempting to kidnap a baby?”  Well, I was dumbstruck because I had found the filmmaking strange but interesting, quite inventive especially in the close-ups.  That monstrous crawling baby!  However, the characters were too innocently crazy and pathetic for me to laugh at. (I still wonder what the Tacoma Film Club had to say about that film a couple of months ago at their monthly Discussion Night.)  Another example of the Coen brothers’ dubious serious comedies was A Serious Man (2009).  This was either cruel Jewish satire made for anti-Semitic Americans or it was Jewish humor for those Jews who could recognize their own foibles and curious mannerisms enough to laugh at themselves.   In the theater when I saw it; it evoked very few chuckles and no eruption of laughter.  Often these days a comedy might stump a collective audience as much as Andy Kaufman stumped his interviewers on the television nighttime appearances (see Man in the Moon (1999, dir. Milos Forman) with comedy star Jim Carey playing Kaufman).   Many comic actors are psychologically damaged, Jerry Lewis a case in point, and directors who experiment with comedy often miss the mark. How can directors of Adam Sandler’s film not realize how unfunny he is, or when he is failing?

When I saw Silver Linings Playbook at the Grand in January 2013, I was aware that some turned heads expressed annoyance at my friend’s and my frequent laughter, as though it were inappropriate.  “What are you laughing at?  These people are severely damaged!”  As I’ve stated, I was infected by my neighbor’s enjoyment, much like the kid unable to stop choking and laughing in the pews during the Sunday Mass.  Sure, it was a problem to laugh noisily at troubled souls; a quiet chuckle might have been best when some impulsive ironic statement was spoken.  But traditional comedies are populated by damaged characters.  Take, for example, the Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin films, in which Jerry was an unruly, childish grown-up throwing himself about in loose-limbed, kinetic fits and pulling facial gestures from the repertoire of Tourette’s sufferers.  Martin and Lewis films were called Romantic Comedies.  I’d imagine so because there was a sorted-out, happy ending and the charming songs of Dean Martin won over his girlfriend.  Never did it occur to question why manic Jerry Lewis was sober Martin’s friend, or why Jerry was allowed out of his sanitarium; we never wondered what sort of childhood Jerry must have led and who his poor parents were.  We all knew to laugh instinctively at the silly shenanigans, no matter how dopey, of the comic man clowning.   Or consider the outlandish stratagems of the housewife Lucille Ball played, she almost destroying her house in order to paper the walls or otherwise remodel it. The quarreling was a manic pitch of screaming when Ricky came home.  We did not find time to ask what kind of marriage Lucy and Ricky really had when life was boring and no crisis had to be solved.  The Honeymooners could not have amused if viewers were conscious, while they laughed, of the signals of a domestically howling, violent man in Jackie Gleason’s Ralph Cramden, or the dysfunction of family living with Archie Bunker’s bigotry and under his irrational “whatever-I-say-goes” patriarchal domination.  Jerry, Lucy, Ralph, Archie–they were damaged souls, but we laughed.  No regard was aimed at characters’ inner problems, neuroses, mental failings, and anarchic insanity as if the situations were real life drama.  We, some of us, laughed hysterically, helped along by the laugh track. There is a catharsis in laughter, even if it is at the expense of stupid people screwing up.   Nowadays, thinking back, we sometimes wonder why we found such idiocy funny.

Films of a new comic mode have come along today that makes us question how hard to laugh or whether to enjoy laughter at someone’s expense, someone behaving with the best of intentions but quite cuckoo nevertheless.  Joel and Ethan Coen (consider Intolerable Cruelty (2003) and Burn After Reading (2008)) have continued to confuse audiences, frustrating their expectations with curiously dark or unfunny comedies.   Without doubt, they are experimenting in such films, attempting to mine many comedic veins hitherto largely untouched.  Who could have imagined the droll, disenchanted nerd (Jon Heder) of Napoleon Dynamite (dir. Jared Hess, 2004) being accepted as a comic character and eventually winning the day by dancing athletically?  The audience with whom I saw Bernie (dir. Richard Linklater, 2012) was very chary of audible laughter; eventually pockets of amused viewers opened up and let go of their disbelief, saw the absurdity of true-believers driven towards improbable causes, and did not allow respectful proprieties to intercept humor totally. Jack Black played the simple Bernie and simpler Hal (Shallow Hal, 2001) so perfectly straight and authentically that we had at times to hold on from erupting with mirth.  Such a natural comic is Black that his talent has been exploited before to hilarious effects.  Bill Murray is another case of natural comic talent.  How good he was in Caddy Shack, What About Bob? and Groundhog Day!  In recent years he has played against type in Broken Flowers (Jim Jarmusch, 2006) and Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2003) and though they can be loosely called romantic comedies, the comic element of previous Murray performances has been severely muted.  Consequently, potentially comedic movies that confuse audiences or differentiate them by appreciation and taste are a rather contaminated genre of the dark and the light.  Nevertheless, in the mix of implausible motivations of characters and happy resolutions there is a seduction towards desire for some kind of success.  In terms of criticism and appreciation, the latter won out with audiences of the novel SLP.  In this case, the critics’ analyses lambasting the script and characters did not affect viewership.  Quite obviously the public will get what they want and successful hybrid comedy films that tickle the world’s funny bone will likely become accepted features of a changing tradition of this and other film genres.  Critics must take abroader view of what is happening in new, oddball ways.








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