Silver Linings Playbook

PhotobucketOn the surface, Silver Linings Playbook looks like a generic romantic comedy. But you would be sorely mistaken. The individuals contained within are anything but your standard, mainstream-friendly crowd. These people are “crazy”. Ok so crazy isn’t exactly a PC word.  Pat Solitano is severely bipolar. So much so that even the very sound of the song “My Cherie Amour” is a trigger that will set him off into a violent rage. Mental illness isn’t a particularly easy subject to mine for laughs and not make the audience feel uncomfortable. But it is a very real issue that is often misunderstood. For a while Pat’s smug, self-satisfied tendency to say whatever pops into his head, is unpleasant. At first it’s difficult to embrace the character. Actor Bradley Cooper has often traded on these attributes in movies like The Hangover films where he’s meant to be glib and overconfident. Here however his easily excitable and smartass demeanor makes him a rather unlikeable bloke.  But interesting things happen in Silver Lining Playbook. As the story develops we start to slowly realize he cannot control these loathsome qualities and he becomes something of a tragic figure. This might possibly be Bradley Cooper’s greatest achievement in acting as it plays to his strengths.

Enter Tiffany Maxwell, played by Jennifer Lawrence, an equally damaged soul also in need of repair. Hiding behind a protective facade of harsh honesty and unrepentant attitude, she isn’t quite the sweetest peach on the tree either. She’s getting over the recent death of her husband. Following a bout with promiscuity that has the whole town thinking of her as the local harlot, she is trying to rebuild her life when she meets Pat and the two strike up a friendship. Pat still wants to reunite with his wife whom Tiffany sees occasionally. She wants a partner for a regional dance competition. The two agree to help each other out and a camaraderie of sorts is begun.

Silver Linings Playbook was directed by David O. Russell. Coming off the success of 2010’s The Fighter, he is clearly on a career defining high. This is his second outstanding feature in a row. I am finally willing to forgive him for I ♥ Huckabees. In addition to actors Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, both rising stars giving arguably their best performances to date, it also boasts Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker and Julia Stiles in one of the most impressive ensembles casts of the year. The script’s odd mix of mental illness and humor can be a bit off-putting in the beginning, but as the narrative wears on, the story takes root, and the personalities engage. It all builds to a satisfying and winning conclusion that manages to combine an obsession with the Philadelphia Eagles football team and a ballroom dance competition. Despite a foundation in genre conventions, this is anything but your typical rom-com. David O. Russell’s adaptation of Matthew Quick’s novel turns these archetypes on their ear. These people aren’t cute, they’re abnormal. Silver Linings Playbook remains an altogether winning slice of life concerning argumentative but brutally honest characters that don’t care whether you like them. The shock is that we surprisingly do.

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26 Responses to “Silver Linings Playbook”

  1. Heard some good things about this and looking at the score I’m looking forward to seeing this.

    • It’s one of those romantic comedy/dramas like Jerry Maguire or As Good as It Gets that the Academy just loves. I predict you’ll be hearing a lot more about this come awards season.

  2. Nice write-up here Mark. I’m a big fan of David O. Russell’s stuff (even I heart Huckabees) and I’m intrigued by this. It’ll be a hard push to better The fighter but by the sounds of it he’s done a good job.

    • He really has. This is so much better than the trailer led me to believe. It surprised me. It’s kind of an off-kilter film, but David O. Russell kind of excels in that type of story now doesn’t he?

  3. I’m not sure if I should see this one or not since I’m not really a fan of David O. Russell, but now I’m really interested. Nice review.

  4. This was such an amazing film. Two people come together with similar mental issues and it all works. The comedy, the drama, it worked for me. I think we will definitely see a lot of Academy noms for this film. 4 1/2 stars.

  5. Sometimes 2 wrongs (the Pat &Tiffany characters) do make a right.

  6. Good review Mark. One of the best films of the year in my opinion and one that shows Lawrence is the next best thing when it comes to women actresses. Also, it’s great to see De Niro and Tucker back in top-form.

    • Jennifer Lawrence is on the verge of superstardom. It’s also nice to see Chris Tucker in something that doesn’t also star Jackie Chan and Robert De Niro really trying.

  7. grainandluster Says:

    I didnt love the fighter but for this genre, this seems to stir up hints that its going to be a good one. cool review, thanks!

  8. I loved it, wasn’t sure what to expect but really enjoyed it. Jennifer is a star! Here is my review

    http://missmufit.com/2012/11/25/silver-linings-playbook-moview-review/

  9. Great review, Mark. I’m pretty sure I’ll like this one.

  10. Really enjoyed this film. It’s just a charming, feel-good romantic comedy about the healing power of love. I agree that Cooper’s character is hard to deal with at first, but once you find out more about him he becomes a bit of a tragic character, like you said. It may be a bit corny and overly optimistic, but I still love this movie. One of my favorite things is that despite Pat’s misgivings his friends and family are rooting for him the whole time. You can tell that they truly want him to get back on his feet. You don’t find a support system like that every day.

    • They genuinely want to help him, yes. Although part of the reason why Robert De Niro was rooting for his son was for superstitious reasons having to do with football. That was unexpected. Actually a lot about these characters turned romcom conventions a bit on their ear. The way the characters behave is not typical. I liked that. Thanks for commenting!

  11. I just saw this. Reminded me of When Harry Met Sally and As Good As It Gets.

  12. drshroom Says:

    Finally got around to this. Loved it. Agree with your take, and was particularly taken with the use of Dylan’s duet with Johnny Cash for the ‘training montage’

    • I remember. Right after Tiffany tells Pat about how Tommy died, they played “Girl from the North Country” as they start to practice their dance.

      There was a lot of memorable music in the film. “My Cherie Amour” and “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” by Stevie Wonder comes to mind as well.

  13. I couldn’t and didn’t buy the romance here. Bradley Cooper’s character spends the majority of the movie, literally, running away from Jennifer Lawrence. He spends the rest of the time talking about his ex-wife. Lawrence manipulates and lies to him, and yet we’re supposed to believe this makes for a good romance???

    • Well that’s what made their relationship so delightfully unpredictable. But look at how many movie relationships start out with two people who initially can’t stand each other and then end up in love.

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