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The Refreshing Pedestrian Scenes of “Silver Linings Playbook”

I finally got around to seeing the Oscar-nominated "Silver Linings Playbook," and it's a charming film. It certainly deserves to be right up there with the top pictures of 2012. And as the film unspooled, I got a pleasant surprise: Neither of the main characters owns (or drives) a car.

Except for the opening scenes where Pat (Bradley Cooper) is driven home to a Philadelphia suburb after eight months in a mental health facility, Pat and Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) spend nearly the entire movie getting to know each other while on foot. Whether it's on a date, walking home from a friend's dinner party, going out for a run, walking to eat cereal at the local diner, or just arguing in the street, this film shows them moving as pedestrians and it's very refreshing. You really sense that the characters need to be in this alfresco mode, and that talking while walking is therapeutic and healthy.

Of course, one could argue their carlessness plays up their mental health problems and that they are not fully integrated with "normal" society. So do the filmmakers want us to think that since both of them are going thru emotionally tough times, they're not stable enough to drive? Possibly.

But it also just might be that their constitutionals and interactions give these characters more depth and let us get closer to them. Unburdened by the automobile, they have time to sort things out, to communicate, and to let their minds breathe.

In the end, the director knows these intentions the best, and when I realized the director/writer was David O. Russell, who grew up in New York City, it started to make some sense. In 2004, he directed the amazing "I Heart Huckabees," an off-beat tale about existentialism and quirky characters in search of themselves. It's one of my all-time favorite comedies.

"Huckabees" contains many scenes of characters using bicycles for transport and has an environmental message at its heart.  Quite possibly its funniest moment is when firefighter Mark Wahlberg rides his bicycle on an emergency call and beats the firetruck to the scene after it gets caught in a traffic jam.

Once again, the bicycles in "Huckabees" may be meant to emphasize these characters' eccentricities. Does this make the audience more prone to laugh at them?  Or does it make the characters seem more inspired, intrepid, and smart?  In the end, the answer is probably both and there's really nothing wrong with that.

Thoughts and other movies?  Leave them below.

9 Comments
  • Logarhythm

    The film takes place in the Delaware County suburbs of Philly, I think in Prospect Park or someplace similar. Those are very inner-ring suburbs, highly built up, and are typically very walkable and with trolley or commuter rail stops in the center of town.  So it is quite possible to live in those areas without a car.

  • Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    Let me just say its not that I haven't seen films before about car-free characters, but most of those take place in dense parts of big cities. Although this takes place in a Phildelphia suburb, the feeling you get in the movie is that it is your typical suburb where all the other characters drive everywhere.

  • http://www.facebook.com/commiegreen Brendon Constans

    Not a movie, but I always loved how on "Murder, She Wrote", Angela Lansbury's character (Jessica Fletcher) didn't own a car and got everywhere via bicycle and train. There's even an early episode where a full size remote controlled "demon" car is going around killing people. After she's abducted by said car, then rescued, she says something along the lines of, "this is why I don't drive". For a television show of its time (1984-1996), it was quite forward thinking as far as how their main character chose to get around.

  • Mike

    @40f1ffe031924b793d7f8b687c60b0a2:disqus I believe it's Upper Darby. There's a scene in front of the Llanerch Diner, which is on US 1.

    I grew up near there, and you're right, the area is an old-style suburb, and even still has what is effectively an interurban trolley system! (The 101 from Philly to Media) I used to think that all towns had the same ability for you to be able to walk from your house to a small main street for shopping and then take the trolley into the city. Only when I left did I realize how rare that was!

  • Charanga

    I've appreciated the role of trains and walking vs. driving in the depiction of a working-class north English town in the 1950's: "Between Two Women".

  • jim.moore70

    Damn. Now I have to go and see this movie because Huckabees is one of my favourites too! Not for the active travel scenes in it which I actually didn't remember until I read this blog, but for the psychiatry/philosophy, Jon Brion's divine soundtrack and of course the understated but great acting by all of the cast.

  • http://twitter.com/B_Amer Brian Amer

    500 Days of Summer is a nice film where the characters don't drive (if I remember correctly). Takes place is a city & they get around by walking & a train for a trip out of town.

  • Mark Chase

     SLPB is also recognized by car-busters winning the no-car-Oscar:

    http://carbusters.org/2013/02/03/carbusters%E2%80%99-second-annual-no-car-oscar-award/

  • http://www.facebook.com/tom.joad.9828 Tom Joad

    Communal transportation riders are kooks. Who is suprised by that?