Silver Linings Playbook–like its central characters–is full of imperfections, but as the story unfolds, we see that the imperfections are part of its greatness.
The story concerns Pat (played by Bradley Cooper), a man who has just been released from an 8 month stint in a mental-health clinic after he came home one day to find his wife Nikki showering with another man, and proceded to beat the man senseless. He’s returned to his parents’ home with his head filled with pop psychology and has big plans: namely, to win back his wife’s love, a matter which is complicated since she has placed a restraining order on him.
His mother (played by Jacki Weaver) wants nothing more than for her son to be happy, while his father (Robert DeNiro) just wants him to bond by watching every Eagles game together. Pat though has a one-track mind, and can only think of Nikki, even when a vibrant acquaintance named Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) practically throws herself at him.
Tiffany has her own problems. Ever since her husband, a police officer, passed away, she has become increasingly neurotic and irritable–and a tad reckless too. Early on, the audience senses something long before the characters do: Pat and Tiffany are both so equally distraught they would compliment each other perfectly.
What’s so interesting about Silver Linings Playbook is that, unlike other romantic comedies, things don’t simply fall into place for the main characters. Instead, they’re confronted with one obstacle after another, from law enforcement to meddling parents. The characters don’t simply fall in love–they have to work very hard for it.
At first, Silver Linings Playbook seems flawed from the get-go. I was reluctant to watch it since I’ve never liked any Bradley Cooper movie (I was quite cruel to Limitless), and I wasn’t hugely impressed by Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games. Plus, the conversations simply sprawl out, and are a far cry from the quippy dialogue such comedies tend to have, but this gives the scenes a deeper, exploratory quality. As the movie progresses, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence give wonderful performances, as do the supporting cast. Even Chris Tucker (yes, the guy from Rush Hour and The Fifth Element) gives a surprisingly dramatic performance as a fellow mental health patient.
Its clear by the end that director David O. Russell (I Heart Huckabees, The Fighter) has done a masterful job with Silver Linings Playbook. He took what could have been a cutesy and formulaic romantic comedy and made it into something that is moving, relevant, and, at times, just plain beautiful. It doesn’t come as a surprise that David O. Russell was nominated for an Academy Award for it (as were Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert Deniro, and Jacki Weaver).
At the very least, Jennifer Lawrence should win best actress for her work in Silver Linings Playbook. Despite how great the entire cast is, she’s the one that brings the film to life, that makes it something special. Moreover, Jennifer Lawrence shows here that she can do anything, from romance to comedy to drama to ballroom dancing (I just hope she doesn’t do more films like The House at the End of the Street).
Sometimes I’ll find myself exiting a theater already planning on when I will see the film again. With Silver Linings Playbook, I had no such thought as I left. I knew I could remember it all quite clearly for some time yet.
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What is your opinion of Silver Linings Playbook?