Today: April 11, 2024

Silver Linings Playbook DVD

Never one to conform to genre or expectations, writer/director David O.

Never one to
conform to genre or expectations, writer/director David O. Russell is something
of a contradiction in Hollywood.

On the one hand you have the seven times Oscar-nominated The Fighter and the brilliant action
thriller Three Kings while on the
other you have the mess that was I Huckabees.
His films may not always succeed but they’re rarely predictable. Recently he even flirted with the idea
of a video game adaptation (Uncharted)
before plumping for the more awards friendly Silver Linings Playbook but is it worthy of the Oscar-buzz it’s
currently generating?

Recently released from a psychiatric institute as part of a plea bargain
for beating up his wife’s lover, Pat (Bradley
Cooper
) is forced to move back in with his
controlling father Pat Sr. (Robert De
Niro
) and sensitive mother Dolores (Jacki
Weaver
). Living with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, Pat’s determined however
to get his life back on track and win back the affections of his wife despite
her restraining order against him.
While looking for the silver lining in his life, Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a young widow whose
unconventional grief therapy involved sleeping with all her workmates. Together these two broken souls form a
bond and just might be the shining light at the end of the tunnel to help them
both heal.

From the outset Silver Linings Playbook feels like a natural successor
to The Fighter. Set in the suburbs
of Philadelphia it presents the same feel of community and family; the larger
than life characters, the rows of detached houses where everyone knows everyone
and, most importantly, at its centre a story about a family divided while
staying true to each other.
Plot-wise it’s nothing new or particularly original, you see the beats
coming a mile off and yet, for this very reason, Silver Linings Playbook
works. Yes, it’s familiar, it’s
predictable but we all have our issues, we all struggle to find our place in
the world and, most of all, we all crave someone to share our lives with.

The script is snappy, the dialogue tripping off the tongue with enough
biting charm to bring a smile and often a laugh. Pat has almost no internal monologue so tends to say exactly
what is on his mind. Tiffany on
the other hand is not afraid to confront an issue head-on, more often than not
despite Pat’s violent past, standing up to him and dominating him in a way you
suspect he always needed. Despite
their issues, they’re the most honest characters in the film. As they point out to a room full of
people towards the end; they know who they are, they’re not hiding from their
issues and as such they have a sixth sense about other peoples’ problems. It’s hard to argue given the
developments over the course of the film.

Unfortunately the film’s mental health issues are all too often cast
aside. Near the beginning you feel
there is something important to be said, a point aching to be made, and yet it
never arrives. The mid-section is
muddled, struggles to progress either plot or character, and you cannot help
but feel a deeper investigation of Pat and Tiffany’s conditions would have
allowed us to further fall for them.

Russell lets his actors do much of the work for him but when you’ve
assembled a cast like this most directors would do well to heed such
tactics. Cooper brings some
welcome vulnerability to his normal cocky guy routine, instilling more emotion
in a character than we have seen from him before. It’s unlikely to bring him any best actor nods but it’s a
step up from his normal wise-cracking ways. De Niro, for the first time in decades, feels like he’s
bringing more than just his name to the credits, his Pat Sr. arguably just as
dysfunctional but with a thin mask of rationality. When you hear that Pat Sr. isn’t allowed to watch his
beloved Eagles at their stadium due to a lifetime ban for violence, you begin
to see that venom behind De Niro’s old gangster stare. Jacki Weaver is wonderful as the caring
Dolores, a typically homespun mom, happiest when cooking and looking after the
men in the house, a world away from her Oscar-nominated role in Animal Kingdom. Even Chris Tucker comes off, for once, as a likable character, his Danny
more subdued than anything we’ve ever seen from the motor-mouthed comedian and
hinting at an acting ability far beyond expectations.

However the film’s stand out is Jennifer Lawrence. Consistently the best thing in
everything she stars in, Lawrence (despite the 15 year age gap with Cooper)
brings the same level of maturity we saw from her in Winter’s Bone. As
Tiffany she is confrontationally strong on the surface while never letting you
lose sight of the damaged individual beneath. Every line of dialogue is spoken with a dry, almost
detached, sensibility that perfectly illustrates Tiffany’s guarded ways. It’s hands down one of the best
performances of the year and again reiterates what an important actress she is
at the tender age of 22.

With bittersweet charm and characters you’ll immediately love, Silver
Linings Playbook is a warm, funny and dramatic comedy. As such you can forgive it its
predictability and simply sit back and enjoy it for what it is, fun with a
capital F.

Find your Silver Lining over at Filmjuice Dating

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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