“Silver Linings Playbook” (2012) is a comedic drama (with a heavy influence on the drama). From the preview of this film it seems like a light hearted, warm, feel-good movie, but in reality it is a much darker, more true to life story. “Silver Linings Playbook” has been nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay for David O. Russell, and four nominations for the films actors. It also is one of only three films to be nominated in the important three categories of Best Picture, Best Director and Best Editing. Every Best Picture winner since “Driving Miss Daisy” (1989) has earned nominations in these two important categories as well.
Bradley Cooper stars as Patrick Solitano, who has just finished serving a required eight months in a mental hospital for savagely beating his wife’s lover. Patrick’s mother, Dolores (Jacki Weaver), signed him out against the doctors’ recommendations, and without the knowledge of her husband, Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro). Patrick moves into his parents’ house and begins a regimented routine of exercise, in a feeble attempt to win back his estranged wife who now has a restraining order against him. Patrick doesn’t like to take his medication, and spends most of his therapy sessions with Dr. Patel (Anupam Kher) yelling and angry, but continuously preaching about his search for life’s silver lining.
Patrick is invited to dinner at the house of his old friends, Ronnie and Veronica (John Ortiz and Julia Stiles), and after his arrival he discovers that Veronica’s recently widowed sister, Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), will also be attending. Tiffany appears to be a care free person that will say and do whatever she is thinking. Patrick thinks Tiffany is crazy, but at the same time is oblivious to his own insanity.
Patrick continues to try and connect with his wife, but he has no way to communicate with her until Tiffany reveals that she would be willing to sneak a letter on to her if Patrick will be willing to be her partner in a upcoming dance completion.
The idea of a silver lining is to find the bright side of a bad situation. Patrick’s life is in desperate need of a silver lining, between his obvious personal problems, overbearing and anger-ridden father, and his friend Ronnie on the verge of a breakdown himself, it is a miracle that he can stay focused. Bradley Cooper gives a strong and somewhat out of character performance in this film. It is the first time he has had to take on such a serious role, and he pulls it off admirably. All three of Cooper’s leading co-stars are already proven actors with experience in dramatic films. In fact all three of them are previous Academy Award nominees, where Cooper has thus far been mostly a comedic actor. “Silver Linings Playbook” is reliant on the believability of Cooper’s performance. Without a strong, commanding performance from him the entire movie would fall apart. I don’t mean to say that the other characters aren’t equally important, but because Cooper is in almost every scene, his believability becomes the foundation of the acting in the film.
One of the only problems with the film is that due to Jennifer Lawrence’s performance, from the moment Tiffany appears she has won the audience over. It doesn’t matter what Patrick wants anymore, we all are rooting for her. Lawrence once again has proven to exceed our expectations, and this time she has found a way to steal the film away from Bradley Cooper. Can this actually be that same little girl who blew us away with her dominating role in “Winter’s Bone” (2010)?
In a rare occurrence, “Silver Linings Playbook” has been nominated for four acting Academy Awards, one in each of the acting categories. Of these, Jennifer Lawrence is in the best position to win, even though the overall cast certainly deserves recognition for their collaborator efforts. This movie is filled with scenes of characters interacting, and without a strong collective performance, this film wouldn’t hold up. Robert de Niro and Jacki Weaver are hilarious as Patrick’s parents, and are both very deserving of their nominations. This script gives de Niro the opportunity to be loud and boisterous, which we all have come to know and love, and Weaver a chance to stand out as the voice of hope in Patrick’s crumbling life. Patrick’s mom is one of the more intriguing characters in the film because of her unique perspective on her son’s situation. She is married to a man who deals with the same, albeit undiagnosed, bi-polar issues as her son, and her understanding of Patrick’s problems are treated with love and kindness at every turn. She sees the silver linings hiding inside of her son, and everything she does is for his benefit.
The script itself is a work of art. It is amazing to see how quickly we can go from being shocked by the things Tiffany says and does, to feeling somewhat sappy and emotional by her vulnerability. Only a great writer could create so many wonderful and touching characters for a story like this. Director/writer David O. Russell has become a master at his writing, and this film is now the bar to which all his future endeavors will be compared. He has a controlled directing style that doesn’t allow things to get out of hand or seem unrealistic. In the past, some of his films have seemed to lack a personal touch, but with “Silver Linings Playbook” it is painfully obvious how important the telling of this story was to him personally.
“Silver Linings Playbook” is a masterful romantic comedy that will be remembered as a defining turning point for a new wave of comedy films. Although the story is dramatic, Russell continuously fills the plot with devices that are typically found in screwball comedies. Typically I have a hard time with films that fit into too many genres because they seem to be lost, but with this film the combination of so many elements and scenarios makes for a fantastically enjoyable film.Back to Home for More Reviews