MRR Movie Review: Silver Linings Playbook

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This 2012 David O. Russell-directed flick, based on the novel of the same name by Matthew Quick, tells the story of a former teacher who, after spending four years in a mental institution, moves back in with his mother and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Bradley Cooper & Jennifer Lawrence star in the lead roles, with Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Julia Stiles, and Chris Tucker playing supporting parts.
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Movie Review: "Silver Linings Playbook"

-- Rating: R (for language and some sexual content/nudity)
Length: 122 minutes
Release Date: Nov. 21, 2012
Directed by: David O. Russell
Genre: Comedy/Drama

"Silver Linings Playbook" is an American romantic comedy. It was directed by David O. Russell, who also wrote the screenplay. The film is based on Matthew Quick's novel of the same name and stars Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. Supporting actors include Anupam Kher, Robert De Niro, Julia Stiles, Chris Tucker, and Jackie Weaver. The premier of "Silver Lining Playbook" was at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival.

Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) is a substitute history teacher with bipolar disorder. He is married to Nikki (Brea Bee), an English teacher. Pat arrives home one day only to find his wife with another history teacher. He loses control and almost beats the man to death. Pat makes a plea bargain with the prosecutor's office that requires him to spend eight months in a mental institution.

The film begins as Pat is about to be released from the institution. He is currently in the up cycle of his bipolar disorder and believes that only good things are going to happen to him. However, he also becomes angry when he hears his wedding song, My Cherie Amour by Stevie Wonder. Pat's mother is Dolores Solitano (Jacki Weaver), who picks him up from the mental institution and takes him home. His father Pat Solitano Sr. (Robert De Niro) is concerned about his son's fragile emotional state.

Pat is obsessively determined to win his wife back, which will be difficult due to the restraining order that prevents him from seeing her. His recovery also appears unlikely, since he refuses to take his medication. He remains convinced that all he needs to do is maintain a positive outlook on life.

Pat's illness also manifests itself in other ways, such as when Nikki tells him that he is overweight. He tries to lose weight by jogging in a garbage bag. Pat also begins reading every book on his wife's syllabus, including "Farewell to Arms" by Ernest Hemingway. He is outraged by the book's sad ending and wakes his parents up in the middle of the night to rant about it. The end of the film is a dance contest that amply demonstrates love is not perfect.

"Silver Linings Playbook" is definitely a comedy, although it does push the envelope on this genre. It deviates from the usual formula by combining witty humor with edgy humor, which surrounds winning performances from all of the leading actors. David O. Russell's film also dispenses with the formula for a mental illness drama by celebrating the saving graces of life's absurditites.

Russell has proven himself to be a director willing to take chances with daring films such as "Flirting with Disaster," "The Fighter," and "Three Kings." He needs this quality to keep the story of "Silver Linings Playbook" from becoming unwieldy. Russell confronts the drama of mental illness directly by having the police visit the Solitano house on a regular basis. He also uses Philadelphia's blue-collar culture to maintain comedy in the film.

Cooper's portrayal of Pat Solitano shows a man who is locked inside his own self and feels nothing more urgent than the emotion he is currently experiencing. Cooper's role in this film is a significant departure from slapstick comedies such as "The Hangover." An early scene in "Silver Linings Playbook" shows Pat talking to himself, and it becomes more obvious that he has many ideas going on in his head as the film progresses.

The film shows more than just Pat's descent into madness. It also pits Pat against Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence), a woman he meets at a dinner hosted by two of his old friends (Julia Stiles and John Ortiz). Maxwell is embarrassingly honest and has a reputation as a slut. This scene develops into a contest between Pat and Tiffany to see who is crazier. Pat also demonstrates his increasingly fragile hold on reality with his therapist (Anupam Kher), a man he meets in the mental institution (Chris Tucker), and Pat's older brother (Shea Whigham).

The most interesting chemistry in this film is between Cooper and Lawrence. This is Cooper's best performance, and Lawrence's portrayal of a sexy, brash woman contrasts sharply with Cooper's uptight character. De Niro is excellent as a compulsive fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, and Weaver does well as his wife, who always tries to see the silver lining in every cloud. Weaver's role as Pat's mother is a departure from her best film-the 2010 Australian crime drama "Animal Kingdom."

Rating: 4 out of 5