Eagles star in Silver Linings Playbook

Posted: November 15, 2012

Admit it. When you watch Philly sports teams on TV, you are a superstitious sort.

If, for instance, the Eagles are playing well (not too often these days) when you are sitting in a particular living-room chair, there's a good bet you will stay there the entire game.

Can't mess with the karma.

That's one of the elements in the poignant and funny Silver Linings Playbook, the Eagles-themed movie based on a novel written by Matthew Quick, a former Haddonfield High English teacher.

Robert De Niro, who plays a bookmaker/restaurateur who is a superstitious-to-the-max Eagles fan, believes his beloved Birds will win if he can control what his family calls the juju, their word for karma. The juju is at its best, he believes, when his son, Pat - played by Bradley Cooper, the heartthrob who grew up in Jenkintown and attended Germantown Academy - is watching the game with him.

The movie is supposed to take place in 2008, and one of the elements is the Eagles' drive to the playoffs and how they are central to the family. Sunday get-togethers at the Solitanos' Delaware County home are based on the Eagles' schedule - De Niro's wife in the movie is the family's glue, and she makes "crabby snacks and homemades" for games - and they give De Niro a chance to bond with his thirtysomething son, who has moved back with his parents after an eight-month stint in a psychiatric hospital.

"It's all about us spending time together," De Niro says. "I want you to get on your feet. I wish you'd watch the games with me so we can talk."

It's as if the Eagles are the only thing that makes the father comfortable to converse with his son.

Father and son used to go to many Eagles games together, but dad has been banned from Lincoln Financial Field because he beat up "so many" at a game.

De Niro is an Eagles fanatic. A closet is filled with shelves of VCR tapes of old Eagles games, and in some scenes he wears old-school Eagles shirts and sweaters, which include the kelly green colors that the team wore until 1996. He wears a Bill Bergey jersey - No. 66 - in another scene, and we see faded Eagles pennants on the walls, and a shadow box filled with memorabilia from an era long before the bobblehead craze.

Cooper, whose character is a bipolar former teacher who is trying to get his life together, is a newer breed of Eagles fan. He wears a No. 10 DeSean Jackson jersey to a dinner party.

DeNiro, gruff but likable, isn't too fond of Jackson or the Eagles coach.

He is incredulous that Jackson spikes the ball at the 1-yard line to take away a touchdown, and he blasts the round man on the sideline in another sequence.

"Andy Reid wastes a timeout on a challenge. Loses the challenge and loses the game!" he shouts, uttering words that seem oh, so real.

When the Eagles host the Giants in a game De Niro has bet lots of coin on - and has his restaurant on the line - he pleads with his son to attend the contest. "We've got a serious situation on our hands," he says. "We have to beat the Giants if we have any chance for the playoffs."

De Niro proclaims that "the juju is messed up" if his son isn't there. "I'd love to go to the game, too, but as you know, I'm banned from the stadium."

Despite a dilemma that is a major part of the story - Cooper is preparing for a dance competition that could get him back with his estranged wife - the son goes to the Eagles game and is among the thousands of tailgaters. (In one scene, we see a tailgater wearing a Nnamdi Asomugha jersey. Oops. Asomugha wasn't on the Eagles until three years after the story took place.)

We won't spoil what happens, but we will say there's another critical game, against the hated Dallas Cowboys, that is part of the drama connected to the dance competition that is filled with emotion and, as it ends, hilarity.

The juju is plentiful.

Contact Sam Carchidi at scarchidi@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @BroadStBull.

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