Hollywood's Suburban Role Model

MLewyn's picture

Hazel Borys's recent post on joggable suburbs reminds me of something I had meant to blog about during Oscar time: a movie that gives us a fairly good role model of walkable suburbia: The Silver Linings Playbook.

In this movie (set in a suburb of Philadelphia*) the main characters are consistently meeting each other while jogging.  Sidewalks are a given, and you occasionally see shots of trains coming in from Philadelphia.  And the regional downtown (Philadelphia's Center City) is presented not as a scary ghetto, but as a magical place where the leading characters realize that they love each other.  Their relationship grows as they prepare for a dancing contest at a Center City hotel that is now an apartment building.

Although this movie was (from an urbanist perspective) the best of the Oscar nominees, it was still missing a bit.  The elements of a walkable place are (reasonably high) density, diversity (of land uses), and (pedestrian-friendly) design.  The residential streets looked pretty walkable, so they do well on the "design" element of this trinity. The houses were on small lots, so the neighborhoods were probably dense enough to support the trains.  But the neighborhood seemed to lack diversify; even though the characters had no problem walking from house to house, they never walked to anything that wasn't a house.


*Just from looking at the trains, my guess is that it is set in one of the South Jersey suburbs served by the PATCO train line, such as Collinwood or Haddonfield. 


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