Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Director: David O. Russell
Cast: Bradley CooperJennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker
Plot: After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own.

Genre: Comedy/Drama/Romance

Awards: Won 1 Oscar - Best Leading Actress. Nom. for 7 Oscars - Best Picture, Best Director, Best Leading Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing
Runtime: 122min
Rating: NC16 for language and some sexual content/nudity.




“I opened up to you, and you judged me.”

Coming off the success of the boxing drama The Fighter (2010), which won two supporting acting Oscars, director David O. Russell scores another winner in this crowd-pleasing romantic dramedy. I daresay it is an even better film than The Fighter, more enjoyable, and featuring performances just as excellent, if not more so.

Adapted from the novel by Matthew Quick, Silver Linings Playbook is a feel-good entry into the Oscar race. I suspect it may leave the ceremony empty-handed considering the wealth of great performances in contention, but Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone, 2010; The Hunger Games, 2012) may have an ace or two up her sleeves.

Lawrence plays Tiffany, a mysterious girl with a tragic recent past who wanders into the life of Pat (Bradley Cooper), who is out to reconcile with his ex-wife, and to some extent his parents, played by Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver, after a stint as a patient at a local mental institution.

The screen chemistry between Lawrence and Cooper is extraordinary as the two seemingly crazed characters that they embody strike out an unconventional love-hate friendship that often appears to spill into romance, but never does. Lawrence’s performance is the best shot at an Oscar for Russell’s film at the moment, but that is not to discount the strength of the supporting performances.

De Niro, especially, is back in top form. He does the difficult job of inducing comedy through drama, and it all comes out genuinely well. He has a superb script to work with, so do the rest of the ensemble cast.

The sharp and tight storytelling never loses steam, and it builds to an incredibly satisfying final act with a kind of strong character and narrative momentum that is quite rarely felt in a motion picture of this genre for some time. Like I said, Silver Linings Playbook is a crowd-pleaser, but it propels itself in that direction by the sheer force of its screen material rather than anything else.

The lengthy climatic sequence is a culmination of dramatic intensity, shot and edited in such a way that it gives energy, anticipation, and emotion not only to what has transpired before it, but provides the impetus for what will happen after.

Silver Linings Playbook is ultimately a film about being comfortable with oneself and being optimistic about life. Claudia Puig of USA Today puts it aptly: “[The film] is consistently entertaining, with its scrappy, well-drawn characters, offbeat humour, and indefatigable positive outlook.” It will also easily find a spot in my Top 10 Films of 2012.

Verdict: Electric performances and sharp storytelling make this crowd-pleasing romantic dramedy an absolute must-watch. 

GRADE: A (9/10 or 4.5 stars)

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