Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
dir. David O. Russell
The Good: Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. Wow. They are, hands down, the main reason to go see this film. Amazing on-screen chemistry. Their back-and-forths are some of the most awkward yet gut-bustingly hilarious conversations I've ever seen. Easily their best performances to date; both deserve nominations and awards. Also easily the best thing De Niro has done since the late nineties. Heck, even Chris Tucker is pretty great in this. Fresh concept. Flawless first half. Fantastic soundtrack. The dance (oh my goodness...). The letter. "What the f*ck?!"
The Bad: It stumbles towards the end as it gets a bit messy and goes to predictable routes (pretty much like Garden State, minus the hipsterness).
The Bottom Line: Silver Linings is your typical David O. Russell film -- superb performances, fascinating concept, but formulaic execution. In spite of that, it's still one of the better films of the year and a potential awards contender. Recommended for fans of rom-coms and character-driven dramas.
It's without a doubt the best movie of the year. Everything about it is just so spot on. I hope it cleans house at the Oscars because it definitely deserves it. I just related to this in a BIG way. I've been pretty much exactly where Bradley Cooper's character was and I still deal with it on a daily basis. Even certain things that he did during scenes were things that I've done before. Just crazy.
The cast is absolutely fantastic. Cooper is so great. I've always liked him, but this is just so completely different from anything he's done and he sells it all perfectly. Lawrence is a revelation. I would say its definitely her most mature performance to date and arguably her best. DeNiro finally with a performance that actually means something. He's great as well and really proves why he was such a good actor in the first place and thankfully shows us what we've all been missing these last few years. Chris Tucker and Jackie Weaver are also there, but neither one is really given much to do in order to make a significant impact.
This so seamlessly blends the comedy and drama together that its kind of surprising. For a movie to make you laugh one second then put you through that emotional wringer the next is just great and its really an amazing accomplishment. Yes this movie does have a lot of the usual trappings that most romantic comedies have, but what sets this one apart is its characters and writing and commitment to seeing these characters through to end. This isn't your traditional McConaughey/Hudson bubble gum rom-com where nothing really matters and we couldn't really care less what happens to these people...this is something different and something substantial and their problems are real and what they go through actually matters. These are people we actually care about.
So we don't mind if the outcome is a little predictable because the actors have created such rich characters that we like and who we wanna see happy and who we wanna see overcome their troubles. Life is full of struggles and it always will be. Wives cheat, husbands die, and football teams lose, but as long we have people we love and people who love us there to keep us going then we'll be okay. Time heels all wounds and we're all just looking for that silver lining.
What kind of romantic comedy do you prefer? Classics, such as It Happened One Night, Pretty Woman and Roman Holiday, or something quirky, like Annie Hall or Harold and Maude? Silver Linings Playbook has more drama present than most romantic comedies, but it still belongs in that category. It would also be classified as somewhat quirky.
Mental illness isn't funny, but I don't think that any subject should be off limits when it comes to comedy. The key is doing it with respect and a degree of realism. For example, cancer is one of the most unpleasant things in existence, but 50/50 was a comedy that worked, because the screenplay allowed us to see some of the seriousness of the situation. Silver Linings Playbook follows the same path.
If you have ever seen As Good as It Gets, you might have some idea what to expect from Silver Linings Playbook. Both films feature incredibly good actors, who are capable of mixing drama with comedy. Both include serious scenes that an average actor might struggle with. The two stories revolve around unlikely romances, that shouldn't work, but it feels right when they do.
Jennifer Lawrence has to be one of Hollywood's hottest properties. She received an Oscar nomination for Winter's Bone, and has reached huge audiences by appearing in X-Men: First Class, and The Hunger Games. I'm sure a lot of people saw Silver Linings Playbook just because Lawrence was involved. She's certainly attractive, but she can really act too. This role requires more than just a pretty face, and she pulls it off with apparent ease.
The setting reminds me of Russell's last film, The Fighter; it's gritty and realistic, and full of dramatic scenes. Families often become involved in shouting matches rather than sitting down to have rational conversations. Two actors won Oscars in that film, and I wouldn't be surprised to see another nomination go to Lawrence for her work here.
The story focuses on Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper), who we see being released from a mental institution. He is married, and has plans to reconnect with his wife. He is friendly and calm most of the time, but can sometimes snap. One trigger is a song, and sometimes he hears it in his head when it's not even playing. Pat moves in with his mother (Jacki Weaver) and father (Robert De Niro), and walks into their bedroom at 3am for insignificant reasons. His judgment is not exactly reliable.
Pat's life begins to change when he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who is the sister-in-law of one of his friends. She's direct and irrational at times, and it soon becomes clear that she has problems of her own. The two enter into a sort of alliance and become friends. Tiffany agrees to give a letter to Pat's wife if he'll train with her and enter a dance contest that she wants to be a part of.
De Niro is funny in almost every scene in which he appears. He plays a Philadelphia Eagles fan, and he's convinced that his actions, and the actions of those around him, have an effect on the team's results. One of the best scenes in the film occurs when Tiffany confronts him about his superstitions.
Chris Tucker is also funny in all of his scenes. He was a fellow patient at the mental institution and seems to care about what happens to Pat.
Another huge plus is the soundtrack. Led Zeppelin finally allowed songs to be used in movies and ads, and the placing of What is and what should never be is particularly effective. You'll also hear The White Stripes, Alabama Shakes, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, Stevie Wonder, and the Eagles of Death Metal. It's one of the best soundtracks of 2012.
I won't ruin the outcome, but it's fun to see Pat and Tiffany work through their problems. It's good to see a film avoid the usual romantic comedy formula and come up with some original ideas. Comedy works best when it surprises you, rather than something which tries to make you laugh with every action or line of dialogue. It's well-written and well-acted, with a number of memorable scenes. Catch it while it's still in theaters if you can.