A genius but unlikely comedy about mental illness, death, dance, sports and love that is one of the best movies of the year with 3 performances that are such a pleasure to watch.
Writers: David O. Russell (screenplay), Matthew Quick (Novel)
Director: David O. Russell
Stars: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro
Run time/Rating: 122 Minutes/ R
Popcorn Score: Large Popcorn
It has taken me quite a while to sit down and type my thoughts out about Silver Linings Playbook. Not because it wasn’t a fantastic movie but because I couldn’t exactly wrap my mind around what it was. As I write this, the last two reviews I have written are Lincoln and Skyfall. For the most part, I knew what those two movies were going to be about, Lincoln, an epic biopic about our 16th president, and Skyfall, a riveting action movie with all of the quirks of a Bond Film. I was right on both accounts, but that is not to say they still didn’t surprise. Silver Linings Playbook didn’t really fit into a category as easily as those two did.
Breaking down the pieces of the movie; you have a somewhat indie Romantic Comedy about mental illness from director David O. Russell (The Fighter, I Heart Huckabees, Three Kings) with big name stars and it is widely known that the movie culminates with a dance competition. Adding on to those facts it had a minimal release nationwide but comes with huge success at every film festival it entered. It is a wildcard of a movie to say the least. I heard Bradley Cooper say on the Howard Stern show that the only way that he was going to get any men to come see the movie was if he did Howard’s show and tell the male driven listeners that it’s not a love story about dancing. He is probably correct, and I think it has paid off for him because the movie has made it into the box office top ten on two separate occasions. That is atypical these days, but then again, Silver Linings Playbook is an atypical movie.
The story revolves around Pat(Bradley Cooper) who is a man that suffers from Bipolar disorder and at the beginning of the film is just released from a mental health facility. He was sent there after he went on a rampage beating up his separated wife’s lover. He is released with an abundance of positivity and with his disorder somewhat controlled he still shows the extreme ups and sporadic behavior that sent him into the clinic. His main goal is to prove to his wife that he is a changed man and that he deserves her back. Pat stays with his parents Pat Sr. and Dolores played by Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver who are fairly typical family living in Philadelphia. Pat Sr. is a fanatic Eagles fan and it becomes obvious quickly that Pat Jr’s disorder is one that can be passed hereditarily. Amidst constant pursuit of his separated wife, Pat is introduced by some friends to Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence). She is a young troubled widow who is rumored to have gone crazy since the untimely death of her husband last year. The two don’t hit it off by any means at first but over time she convinces him that she can help him to win his wife back if he helps her with a dream of her own.
The story is mostly a comedy but I felt at times it was dealing with such heavy issues, including mental illness, death and internal family problems that it tried to be too funny with the subject matter that it was working with. There were scenes especially during the first half of the movie when it was hitting moments that I thought did not need a joke, or a break in the true emotion that was being displayed. I even felt a bit uncomfortable at times caught in a limbo feeling of compassion and laughter. That is obviously great when a movie can send you through such a range of emotion but I felt the balance was sometimes off.
With that small criticism out of the way I have to say that I enjoyed Silver linings Playbook more than most movies I see. The pinnacle moment which brilliantly brings together the high society dance crowd with grown football fanatic gambling men is masterful. The merging of the story lines is done with such amusement and ease.
The performances are also something that need mention. First off, I found De Niro to give the most spectacular performance of the movie. He proved in this supporting role that had depth and true emotion that he has not lost even a touch of his ability with older age. I hope that he continues to make this class of movie rather than ease into retirement with more mail in performances like Meet the Parents, Meet the Fockers, and of course, Little Fockers. With such compliments to De Niro, I am not taking anything away from Bradley Cooper who continues to shine and surprise. I hope he also continues to make this class of movie rather than mail in more performances like The Hangover, The Hangover 2, and of course, The Hangover 3. Jennifer Lawrence was very driven in her performance as well, and somehow more beautiful than ever before. With one academy award nomination already (and I would hope another for this performance) she will definitely be making more movies of this class. Chris Tucker, John Ortiz, and Julia Stiles also played great rolls with great ability that filled in the ensemble.
Silver Linings Playbook is a movie that is not easy to describe or put into a category but perhaps that is one of its best qualities. A unique and original film with some of the best performances of the year is an absolute must see. Enjoy!
Just for the fun of it. Here is a clip of a maned Bradley Cooper on “Inside the Actors Studio” asking a question to Sean Penn.