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Silver Linings Playbook


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Jennifer Lawrence has been nominated for an Oscar for her role in Winter’s Bone and I was unconvinced. She played a strong-willed fighter in The Hunger Games, and she played a boring Mystique in X-Men: First Class. This is not to say I dislike Ms. Lawrence; I just felt she hadn’t played anyone significant with substance. In Silver Linings Playbook, she brings the long-awaited substance and it’s brilliant.

Grade:

A

After a particularly traumatizing incident leads to a stint in a mental hospital, Pat (Bradley Cooper) returns home to win back his wife by showing he has gained control over his bi-polar disorder. He moves back in with his parents, Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro) and Dolores (Jacki Weaver), and begins working out and reuniting with friends until he meets Tiffany (Lawrence), a widow who has been struggling coping since the loss of her husband.

Now, films often involve troubled characters that have problems so severe you can’t relate to them or they seem to be so unbelievably unlucky the character becomes…well…unbelievable. Pat and Tiffany have troubles, but they are not beyond the realm of plausibility and react accordingly. The therapy sessions between Pat and his doctor are the most telling of this as he describes the struggle of living for so long with violent mood swings and not understanding the cause or how to control them. Tiffany’s motivation to act out after her husband’s death is explored in less depth, but after losing a loved one, everyone goes a little crazy.

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While the portrayal of bipolar disorder and the rom-com idea that everyone is capable of finding love should have been the focal points, the real stars of the film is exactly that, the stars. I’ve always felt uncomfortable judging someone’s acting abilities because when it comes down to it, the idea of acting for a living is a little odd at its core. That said, Bradley Cooper is sensational as Pat. I am not sure if director David O. Russell simply forced the performance, or Cooper went out and did his homework. It doesn’t matter. The results show and Cooper does an excellent job not only showing the violent mood swings that come with Pat’s disorder, but he follows this up with the immediate self-deprecation and inner turmoil that comes from someone acting out of their own skin, if you will. Sometimes actors let a little bit of their own personality influence a role, but Cooper stays in character throughout until Pat finds some solace.

Supporting Cooper’s performance is a revitalized De Niro. When was the last time you saw Robert De Niro actually using his talents in a role? It sure hasn’t been in the last ten years. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Russell commented on De Niro’s first reaction to the script with tears in his eyes as bi-polar disorder is a factor in his family—I cannot recall the link at the moment. As Pat’s obsessive-compulsive father, De Niro deftly shows the struggle those around an unstable person go through—Weaver is equally impressive, by the way. In this particular case, we see where Pat may have had a predisposition towards mental illness, as Pat Sr. is the most ardent and superstitious Philadelphia Eagles fan imaginable and it leads to ill-advised decisions (although if you’ve met Eagles fans you realize this is actually somewhat normal). As Pat adjusts to life after diagnosis, his family has to make similarly difficult adjustments.

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Finally, Lawrence and Tiffany. You’d think if De Niro is performing like we all know he can and Cooper is exceeding expectations then there would be no room for another great performance, but you’d be sorely mistaken. Lawrence holds her own and then some. One scene in particular towards the end has Lawrence overshadowing the two men. The scene calls for looks of awe and surprise from Cooper and De Niro, but you can tell the expressions are genuine reactions to her. Instead of her typical stone-faced role in the movies mentioned above, Lawrence allows herself to be vulnerable. She yells, cries, laughs maniacally and you can’t look away. I tend to have opinions contrary to the Academy, but I think Silver Linings Playbook is more feasible for a Lawrence nomination than Winter’s Bone.

The mixture of performances results in likable characters with realistic and emotional progressions. Couple this with timely, and sharp, humor and you have one hell of a film. The one minor quibble is the camera work for important scenes. Russell ends up going for too much trying to show every angle, every mannerism and every possible connection that could be seen between the actors on screen. It becomes distracting and takes you out of crucial scenes. Otherwise, I strongly recommend Silver Linings Playbook for all moviegoers…except children, obviously.

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    • Huard, David
    • December 1st, 2012

    Nice review — makes me want to see the movie and discuss it with the reviewer

    Sent with Good (www.good.com)

  1. January 16th, 2013

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