Movie Review: “Silver Linings Playbook” – A Playbook of Winning Moves

Written by Spencer Sterritt November 25, 2012

“Silver Linings Playbook,” the newest film by the always interesting David O. Russell, has been earmarked as a front-runner at the 2013 Academy Awards, as it should be. Based on the book of the same name, and starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook” is easily one of the highlights of the film season.

Who would have ever thought that I would like Bradley Cooper as a serious thespian? I knew he had talent, I had just never seen it until now. He plays Pat Solitano, a man just released from a mental institution for some serious mental problems. His mum (Jacki Weaver) pulls him out perhaps a bit too early, much to the chagrin of his dad (Robert De Niro). In no time flat Pat begins to unwind as he tries and tries to make himself better in an effort to get back with his estranged wife Nikki.

“You have poor social skills. You need to see someone.”

Just like in “The Fighter” David O. Russell manages to wring every bit of emotion out of a scene, and get some great performances while he is at it. Under this direction Robert De Niro actually acts again, crying with real tears and getting upset in a controlled way that he hasn’t done in probably a decade. Between this and “Being Flynn,” Robert De Niro may actually be having his long-awaited comeback. Jennifer Lawrence more than holds her own in “Silver Linings Playbook”  as Tiffany, a recent widow who’s just as conflicted as Pat. She unintentionally steals the spotlight at every turn, which isn’t surprising, but it’s a nice reaffirmation that she can really act and isn’t just another pretty face in Hollywood.

Jacki Weaver, Robert De Niro

Bradley Cooper though, gawd damn. I’ve never seen him in anything other than the smarmy douche-bag role, which admittedly he is pretty good at it. Here though, he blew me away. He held it together admirably even as Pat stresses and freaks out, all in the name of being a better man for his absolute bitch of an estranged wife. Hopefully he can keep finding meaty roles like this to dig into, because Cooper finds the real heart of Pat, and totally becomes him. For a guy best known for being in “The Hangover” I find that to be damn impressive.

Fell In Love With A Girl

The plot around Pat and Tiffany isn’t exactly the most original, as they pair up for a dance competition, and get to know each other and fall in love as they train, but the way David O. Russell captures their perceived mental illness certainly is, at least right up until the feel good ending. When Bradley Cooper has a panic attack he’s not framed as a weirdo, as someone who needs to be kept alone, but he’s also not framed as an enlightened guy, the kind of guy who sees everything differently and is turned into a visionary about how people are really supposed to live their life. There’s nothing cloying about their inner turmoil, and I’m glad the film takes the stance that you should just come to terms with yourself, and accept yourself.

Actually, that does sound pretty cloying, but it’s done well I swear!

Also, for a film about mental illness, undiagnosed problems, societal angst, and obsession, “Silver Linings Playbook” is damn funny. Just like “The Fighter” which I expected to be dour and angsty but was quite hilarious, “Silver Linings Playbook” finds the off hand, reactionary humor of every day life. There aren’t really any punch lines, except for when Chris Tucker makes his triumphant and hilarious appearances, but I found myself laughing right along with the awkwardness of Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence reacting against each other in the worst ways.

“Silver Linings Playbook” is definitely a surprise for me. I was excited for it, but I expected it to fall apart completely in the end, or not to not delve into the serious issues, but it doesn’t. It gets some great performances and digs deep into the serious issues. Everyone here knows what they’re doing, and I can’t recommend it enough.

My Rating: 8.5/10

 

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About Spencer Sterritt

Spencer Sterritt

Spencer Sterritt: former Editor-In-Chief for We Eat Films, future President of the Men With Beards Club, and hopefully candidate for ruler of the world.

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