Welcome to FrockTalk, the web’s only costume-based movie review site. The goal of Frocktalk is to shed light on the magnificent artistry of costume design in motion pictures. Reviews on this site are written by working costume designers in the entertainment industry – people who know, better than anyone, what it takes to make it all happen. The focus of FrockTalk is not to comment on the big flashy costume dramas, but to call attention to the seemingly ordinary costume design work in film that silently and persuasively moves the audience toward understanding the characters. Costume design for motion pictures is an art form that deserves more recognition than it usually gets. Fancy, pretty costumes do not always equal effective, appropriate costumes. The art of the costume is in letting the audience know who the character is, before the actor even has a chance to open his mouth. Read on, and enjoy. ** CAUTION: ALL REVIEWS CONTAIN SPOILERS! **

Silver Linings Playbook

Review Date: 11-20-12

Release Date: 11-21-12

Runtime: 122 minutes

Period: Contemporary

Costume Designer: Mark Bridges

There is an expression we occasionally use in our business, and that is “Fight the hot”. What that means is that as costume designers, we have to make an attractive person look less so, so that their beauty doesn’t distract from the film. Such is the case with Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook. Voted 2011’s Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine, you have to fight the battle of your life against the hot when you work with Bradley Cooper.

Cooper plays Patrick Solitano, a man recently (prematurely?) released from a psychiatric hospital. Pat suffers from bipolar disorder, which we see in the film swinging from mild delusion to violent, scary outbursts. His failed marriage has sent him over the edge, and he is trying his hardest to fix himself so that his wife Nikki (Brea Bee, who has a restraining order against him) will take him back. As part of his early release from the hospital, Pat must take meds (he refuses) and see a therapist (Anupam Kher) regularly.

Pat lives at home with his parents Pat, Sr. (Robert DeNiro), and Dolores (Jacki Weaver), in a blue-collar Philadelphia neighborhood. The production design is so good, you can almost taste the crabbies and homemades (appetizer treats) laid out for game day. And game day is a big deal at the Solitano home. Pat Sr., having recently lost his job, is now in the bookmaking business, and the Philadelphia Eagles are his bread and butter. His extreme OCD on game days gives us insight about Pat Jr.’s situation – Pat Sr. seems to think that Pat Jr. is his lucky charm, and asks him to hold the “lucky bandana”, “lucky remote”, or whatever he deems an appropriate totem. Pat Sr. is a bigtime gambler, and is doing the bookie-ing for what seems like the entire neighborhood.

Pat Jr. runs into his old friend Ronnie (John Ortiz), whose uptight, controlling wife Veronica (Julia Stiles) invites him to dinner. Ronnie and Veronica are still friends with Pat’s wife Nikki, and Pat is desperate to communicate with her despite the restraining order. At dinner, they are joined by Tiffany, Veronica’s younger sister. Tiffany is the recent widow of a police officer, and has her share of emotional troubles – more than enough to rival Pat’s. When Veronica bossily pushes Tiffany’s buttons at the dinner table, Tiffany leaves, asking Pat to walk her home.

Tiffany follows Pat while running.

Tiffany follows Pat while running.

Two emotionally disabled people trying to get to know each other makes for great dialogue, and before you know it, Pat and Tiffany are on a date. It’s Halloween, and it gets weird. In the end, Tiffany agrees to deliver a letter to Nikki from Pat, as a favor. Later, in return, she asks Pat for a favor – to dance with her as her partner in a competition. He reluctantly agrees. They begin practicing daily, working hard on their routine. Pat seems to start to like it. Tiffany gives Pat a letter from Nikki – an encouraging letter, one that seems to brighten his spirits. Pat is moved and grateful.

Meanwhile, Pat Sr.’s bookie money is meant to go toward the opening of a new restaurant (his dream). He goes all in on the Eagles v. NY Giants, and tells Pat Jr. that he must attend the game in person, as his good luck charm. Pat Sr. is banned for life from the stadium for having been in too many fights there, so sending his son is the next best thing. That is, until a racist fight breaks out in the tailgating area. A few dumb punks pick on a group of Eagles fans from India (Pat’s therapist being one of them) and Pat and his posse jump in to intervene. Pat, his brother and the therapist are hauled away by the cops and brought back to the Solitano home.

Pat Sr. is devastated. Not only did his sons get in trouble, but he also lost his good luck charm, the Eagles lost the game, and he lost all of his money in the bet. Pat Sr. puts all of the blame on Tiffany, for being a distraction to his son, and a hindrance to his “good luck charm” ability. Tiffany counters, reciting a litany of victories of Philadelphia teams coinciding with her time spent with Pat Jr. It’s settled – she’s the good luck charm, not Pat Jr.

At this point, Pat Sr. takes a double or nothing bet with his pal Randy (Paul Herman) on the Eagles v. the Dallas Cowboys. Sweetening the deal, he gives his Randy ten points, and Randy parlays the bet to the outcome of the dance competition for which Pat and Tiffany are preparing. In simple language: if the Eagles beat the Cowboys, and if Pat and Tiffany score at least a FIVE in their dance competition, Pat Sr. wins back double his money.

At this point, Pat re-reads the letter from Nikki. It contains a phrase that is starting to sounds oddly familiar… what does it mean?!

The football game and the dance competition are on the same day, at approximately the same time. Tensions are high, as Tiffany spies Ronnie and Veronica entering the dance hall… with Nikki! As Pat Sr., Ronnie, and the boys watch the football game at the bar, Tiffany orders vodka drinks at another bar, distraught. The Eagles win the game – just as Pat and Tiffany are being called to the dance floor! The music starts, and….

Pat Sr. even wears his Eagles green blazer to the dance competition.

Pat Sr. even wears his Eagles green blazer to the dance competition.

I’m not going to give away the ending. I just can’t.

I loved this movie. The tone of the film was perfect – it was an engaging, funny, real story that took me by surprise. The performances were outstanding (by everyone) and it felt authentic and emotionally real. Hats off to David O. Russell for pulling this off. It was fantastic.

As for “fighting the hot”, Bradley Cooper as Pat was mostly in sweats. And I mean, old-school sweat pants, pullover hoodies, t-shirts, and sneakers – the entire time. His color palette was grey, navy, dark grey, and olive green. The sweats were a great weapon in fighting the hot, though his characterization of Pat – intelligent, passionate, funny – was amping up the hot, so it was kind of a wash.

When we see Pat at the dance competition, he has his glamour moment – tailored jacket, dress shirt, looking sharp. We see Tiffany trying, and failing, to tie a necktie for him before the competition. First a bowtie, then a regular tie – she can’t seem to get it right. Pat just gazes at her with nothing but love. It’s such an endearing moment that Tiffany doesn’t see at all. In the end, no tie… but we get the message.

Tiffany wears mostly black in this film. Occasionally, she wears dancewear in “bruise” colors – purple, grey, dark blue – but for the most part, it’s black. On one hand, you can interpret this as “widow’s weeds”, but I think that the prevalent use of black spoke to her own inner conflict. She was not a well person before her husband died, and she probably wore black then, too. Black seems to speak to the void inside of her.

It is not until the dance competition that we see her change, fundamentally. Here she appears in white – the antithesis to all we’ve previously seen her in. It’s beautiful. Pat is also in a white shirt, so to see the two of them in a medium-close-up is to see this angelic couple in white – it was really lovely.

On their Halloween “date”, Tiffany wears a very interesting top – opaque bodice, lace sleeves and back – it’s stretchy and reminiscent of a dancewear silhouette. It’s feminine, kind of flirty, and yet it still speaks to her state of mind (sullen, touch-me-don’t-touch-me). It was a lovely choice, and it felt right for her, and for her environment.

Note the DEVIL costume on the waitress.  Brilliant!!

Note the DEVIL costume on the waitress. Brilliant!!

It’s Halloween, after all, and the entire town is dressed up. What I loved about the Halloween element in this film is that it wasn’t over-the-top Halloween, like you see in a lot of movies. This was realistic, semi-janky Halloween. This is what you see in reality, in blue-collar America. These aren’t rich people with $400 to blow on a costume. These are people pillaging Salvation Army and their mom’s closet for something to cobble together. I love the realness of this version of Halloween. Well done!

Along those lines, I LOVE the feeling of Philly in this film. Not once did it ever feel false. All of the sartorial choices were spot on. Look at Pat Sr., for example. He’s a 65-year-old guy wearing polo sweaters on regular days…

Eagles gear on Pat Sr.

Eagles gear on Pat Sr.

And nothing but Eagles gear on game days. The use of jerseys and pro football gear in this film was amazing and well played. I know, and probably you know, families like this who (on game day) bust out the jerseys and scream at the television. It’s a thing, and it was portrayed honestly and shamelessly in this film.

The therapist in the film starts out as all-tweed, buttoned-up, very boring color scheme… a by-the-book shrink.

However, when we see him at the Eagles tailgate, half of his face is painted green, and he’s in full Eagles gear. He looks worse for wear after the arrest.

Chris Tucker as Danny is hilarious – as a fellow psych patient, he is Pat’s friend and rudder in seeing the truth of his feelings for Tiffany. Danny is always wearing sweaters – like, quasi-nerdy sweaters – in this film. I thought it was a really interesting choice, to sort of work with Tucker’s notorious comedic presence using this kind of conservative sweater vibe.

Ronnie and Veronica are hilarious in their keeping-up-with-the-Joneses suburban social-climbing world. Their house is adorned with useless gadgetry and it seems that Veronica’s pursuit of “things” has gotten the better of them. This family photo kind of says it all.

Check the family photo, center. Hilaires!

Check the family photo, center. Hilaires!

Julia Stiles was inspired casting in this film as Veronica. In fact, so much of the casting was truly brilliant. Jacki Weaver as Dolores – WOW. Have you seen her in Animal Kingdom? She’s a totally different kind of mom in that movie. To see her here, in a largely comedic role, was a revelation.

I can’t say enough good things about this movie – it was a joy to watch, and the audience where I saw it was laughing out of their chairs. It’s so nice to see Bradley Cooper in a role that prods him to higher heights. Jennifer Lawrence is on fire, as well – I can’t imagine anyone else doing what she did with that role, and it doesn’t get much better than that. This is the best I’ve seen DeNiro in a long time, and the supporting cast is outstanding. I hope you enjoy this film, Frocktalkers – can’t wait to hear what you think about it!!

– KMB

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