Silver Linings Playbook provides just over two hours of extra good acting packaged in an entertaining, fairly harmless story. It’s a fact that Jennifer Lawrence is extraordinary in this movie.
Here’s a trailer:
Released December 25, 2012
Written by David O. Russell. Based on the book by David Quick.
Directed by David O. Russell
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Julia Stiles, Jacki Weaver, Brea Bee, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Chris Tucker, Anupam Kher, John Ortiz, and Shea Wigham.
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Silver Linings Playbook starts with a voice over from Pat Solitano (Cooper), who has just left a mental health hospital with his mother (Weaver) after being locked up for what is alluded to as a violent incident. On his way out, we meet his pal, Danny (Tucker) who tries to hitch a ride. When Pat and his mom get home, we meet Pat’s dad, Pat Sr. (De Niro). Now we start to understand what is going on.
Pat discovered his wife Nikki (Bee) having an affair with a history teacher and went nuts, beating the man to within an inch of his life. But it turns out that Pat had a history of volatility, and is now diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Pat has decided he doesn’t need meds and he can find the cure ala mind over matter. He just needs to have a plan and get fit and get his life together and then he can get Nikki back.
In the meantime, he’s still obsessive and smart and vulnerable and volatile. He’s trying to control himself, but– and this is important– he has an illness and he needs to take his medicine to treat it. Mind over matter ain’t going to cure this thing. The movie doesn’t quite highlight this well enough and almost intimates that love and discipline can cure Pat, which is not okay.
Moving on. Pat meets Tiffany (Lawrence) at his friend Ronnie’s (Ortiz) house. Tiffany is the sister of Ronnie’s wife, Veronica (Stiles), a controlling but well-meaning lady. Veronica also happens to be Nikki’s best friend.
Tiffany has recently gone through significant trauma and suffered through a rather noticeable and damaging breakdown. Thus, she, like Pat, has a tendency to say what is on her mind with little to no filter. These two kindred spirits have an instant connection, although Pat tirelessly points out he’s married still.
Tiffany agrees to get a letter from Pat to Nikki (there is a restraining order against Pat) if Pat agrees to help Tiffany prepare for a dance competition. On the side is Pat’s also volatile father who has lost his job and is now participating in illegal activity to make ends meet.
And thus the story unfolds. This is a romantic dramedy that is rated R. You can figure out that language will be used, tension will mount, stakes will be raised, and love will very likely conquer all.
Silver Linings Playbook was heavily involved in awards season for 2012 movies. There is a reason for this: it’s a wildly engaging movie because of a totally simple, accessible storyline delivered by spectacular performers.
The writing is not stupendous– although I do not speak for the book, which I haven’t read yet. There is nothing unpredictable about how the story unfolds– you can see every turn coming if you are familiar with tropes. That said, the dialogue is fresh, sharp, and extremely tight. What’s more, with David O. Russell helming this flick, the dialogue is delivered authentically and at a very natural rhythm.
The acting, particularly by Jackie Weaver as the mother and Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany, is astoundingly good. Both of these characters feel like they might almost be caricatures in the book– and on paper they are– but these ladies deliver characters with great depth of emotion and beautiful motivation. There is a particular moment where Tiffany accepts a dinner invitation that is very poorly timed– this moment had so many ways it could go wrong, but Lawrence keeps it even and delightful. That moment won Lawrence the Oscar. Everyone else does a great job too, even Bradley Cooper who has coasted on his stubble, looks, and fast-talking for far too long.
It’s unlikely that there is an adult that wouldn’t enjoy this movie with its fresh performances and perfectly accessible story.
Content warnings: There’s plenty of salty language mixed with a few fisticuffs. There is brief nudity that involves a woman’s backside and then her top for a moment.
Writing: 4.5 Acting: 5 Overall: 5
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