D/W: David O. Russell. DP: Masanobu Takayanagi. Starring: Bradley Cooper/Jennifer Lawrence/Robert De Niro/Jacki Weaver/Chris Tucker/Julia Stiles/John Ortiz/Anupam Kher/Shea Whigham/Dash Mihok. (NOTE: Based on Matthew Quick’s 2008 novel of the same name.)
I won’t bore you with another trailer lamentation. With all the Oscar propaganda and holiday movie hub-bub I just can’t stomach it. Yet Silver Linings Playbook might just be the best of the year, and I almost opted out.
David O. Russell took 2010’s The Fighter and made it into the best film it probably could have been. Yet here, with his own project, a better sense of wholeness is felt. A liberation. Or maybe that’s just the byproduct of a very smart story.
Silver Linings Playbook gives Bradley Cooper (Limitless, Hangover) a decent opportunity to wipe that obnoxious grin off his face and get to acting. Cooper’s American bred handsomeness and borderline bonkers grin gives his Pat a disarming amount of charm. You can almost see the gears and hinges working in Cooper’s brain as his Pat must re-acclimate to life after his release from a psychiatric institution. Just as abruptly as his mother (Australian actress Jacki Weaver) picks up from the institution, the audience must immediately start to unpack his situation and his emotional suitcase.
Cooper and his obsessive compulsive father, played by Robert De Niro, attempt to navigate his situation and mental illness like ships that pass in the night. Eventually Cooper’s friendship with Jennifer Lawrence’s Tiffany (be still my 90s heart) gets the film going to where it should. What was muddled in The Hunger Games, is fully realized here. Lawrence’s Tiffany is scarred and self-destructive, but so deliciously so you’ll want to join in on her one person party. Lawrence gives Tiffany a nuanced amount of vulnerability and tough tail spunk. She not only spits to Cooper’s Pat that she’s a bit messy and is okay with it. But I feel it with her, right down to the final eyeliner stroke. And I like it.
The couple’s chemistry is the driving force of the film, allowing the family conflict to breathe and refrain from melodrama. Towards the end you might have the urge to ask, was this a romantic comedy I’ve been watching? Well, maybe, but you certainty didn’t feel it coming. And that is exactly what is so refreshing about Silver Linings Playbook. It does not candy coat stale tropes or confine drama to common conflict. Rather it marches you into a story that captures the heart of modern American life and puts it onscreen. These characters have problems, but that’s alright. Down crumbles the facade of Hollywood movie stardust. Just try not to sneeze.