MRR Movie Review: "Silver Linings Playbook"


Movie Review: "Silver Linings Playbook"

Rating: R
Length: 122 minutes
Release Date: November 21, 2012
Directed by: David O. Russell
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Romance

"Silver Linings Playbook" is a tale of two kindred spirits living in the shadow of mental illness. Based on the novel by Matthew Quick, the film is directed by David O. Russell. Following the success of his previous movie, "The Fighter," Russell is now seeing a career resurgence as a top-tier mainstream filmmaker. He masterfully guides his actors through a film that could very well have been a by-the-numbers comedy. Instead, he has turned this into an applause-worthy film set against the backdrop of mental illness, family, broken dreams, and the Philadelphia Eagles.

The story introduces us to Pat Solitano, Jr. (Bradley Cooper), who has been released from an eight-month stint at a local mental hospital. His family welcomes him with open arms, trying to help him cope with the dissolution of his marriage to Nikki (Brea Bree) by forcing him to enjoy normal things, such as an Eagles football game with his father, Pat Sr. (Robert DeNiro). Pat Sr. has his own problems, namely having to turn to working as a bookie in order to make the money he needs to open his dream restaurant. However, when Pat Jr. meets Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence) at a friend's dinner party, the two hit it off after discovering they share similar mental issues. As they begin a routine to work through their individual issues, Pat Jr. must reconcile his past and begin to look toward his future while coping with being bipolar.

Like Russell's previous film, the Oscar-nominated "The Fighter," "Silver Linings Playbook" has a more traditional feel with an appealing story. Starkly contrasting with earlier films like "Three Kings" and "Flirting with Disaster," this film completes Russell's transition to one of the best audience-friendly directors in the business. His hardnosed work ethic brings out the best in his actors, propelling Cooper and DeNiro toward some of their best roles in years. There is a personal touch in "Silver Linings Playbook" for Russell as his son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder a few years ago. Displaying mental illness onscreen is tricky, and Russell's deft hand keeps the film's themes from becoming cliché.

As Pat Jr., Bradley Cooper gives what is, without a doubt, his best onscreen performance yet. While there have been hints of this side of Cooper, "Silver Linings Playbook" is the first time the actor has been allowed to move past his glamorous image and showcase a character with flaws. The character of Pat Jr. is in many ways an offshoot of the roles Cooper often plays. Here is a man at his wit's end, and Cooper plays him without histrionics but with an honesty and conviction that has yet to be seen in his other films.

Jennifer Lawrence plays Tiffany as a strong yet vulnerable woman. It's a remarkable acting turn following her appearance as Katniss Everdeen in "The Hunger Games," unleashing a tender side to Lawrence that has yet to be seen in some of her blockbuster work. Some of the film's brightest moments are the quick banter between her and Cooper, providing viewers with a clinic on how to write dialogue that is fast, witty, and intelligent. Lawrence is truly an actress to watch.

Perhaps the biggest surprise in "Silver Linings Playbook" is Robert DeNiro. Despite having chosen parts over the last decade that do not really boost his stamina, DeNiro is on fire here. As Pat Sr., DeNiro looks motivated for the first time in years, bringing elements of pain and frustration that put this role up there with some of the best work he's ever done. DeNiro seems to be in the same life phase as Pat Sr.; both are looking to retake their respective legacy by going out on top in something they love.

In recent interviews, Russell has talked about staying relevant as his career progresses. By refocusing his films to be less quirky and more character-driven, he's not only upped his game, but he's made the actors around him shine. Like Christian Bale and Melissa Leo in "The Fighter," there are sure to be at least three acting nominations for "Silver Linings Playbook" when the Oscars are announced in January. Cooper, Lawrence, and DeNiro are all at the top of their game, and Russell has directed one of the best films of year.

Rating: 4 out of 5