Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Exactly *not* the movie I wanted. Exactly the movie I needed.

I finally saw ‘Silver Linings Playbook’. I know. Back off. I’ve had a rough last couple of months, what with friends passing away and an increasingly vitriolic divorce from a woman whose moral compass points to an entirely different north from my own. 

So you can understand my reluctance to see a movie about a guy whose wife betrays him meeting up with a woman dealing with the death of her husband. 

It was exactly not the movie I wanted to see. But it was exactly the movie I needed. 

Why? Because it's a  good story. And at this moment in my life I've had so much bad that I need all the good I can get.

I have a theory about good stories. That good stories require a protagonist overcoming obstacles in order to achieve something.

That’s nothing new. All of us story geeks will tell you pretty much the same thing. Where I go a little different is that I look for one more wrinkle. I like to see the protagonist’s Want in opposition to his or her Need.

Silver Linings Playbook’ is a textbook example. 

The main character wants to save an unsavable marriage (hmmm –– that sounds familiar). What he needs is to accept the truth that his marriage can’t be saved. 

I’m going to tell you how it ends. He gets what he needs. But you know this already, even if you haven’t seen the film, because I said I liked it. For a story to be satisfying, the protagonist must fail to achieve what he or she wants in order to achieve what he or she needs. 

Yeah, there needs to be more. Otherwise, my going to see the movie would make a good movie. The Need has to be life-altering. The protagonist has to be single-mindedly dedicated to achieving his or her goal. The forces conspiring to thwart the protagonist must be formidable. 

This film had all that. Plus extraordinarily good acting, nice writing, and fresh, likable characters. 

In short, it does what any good film does: Provide an escape from our own miserable lives. 

I know, speak for yourself, Brian.