Synopsis: After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own.
Stars: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker, Anupam Kher, Shea Whigham, John Ortiz, Julia Stiles
Director: David O. Russell
Running Length: 120 minutes
Trailer Review: Here
TMMM Score: (9/10)
Review: Quick! What’s the best thing about going to the movies? The answers to this question vary from person to person as we all have our own reasons for seeing (or not seeing) movies. Some go for the escapism, some go for the stars, and others go for solitude. As I get older and amass a large amount of titles under my “Seen” belt I’ve found that it’s when a movie genuinely surprises me that I feel the most maximum reward. What ultimately makes Silver Linings Playbook so excellent is the way it bucks your typical movie framework for something wholly unique, original, moving, and quite entertaining.
Adapted from the novel of the same name by Matthew Quick, here is a film that reveals its heart slowly through scenes of clashing personalities, unspoken hurts, and newfound pain. The characters in the film are pretty flawed but not unredeemable in the eyes of the filmmakers or the viewers. We want to like the man (Cooper) who gets bailed out early from a court mandated stay in a mental institution. And we want to like his parents (Weaver and DeNiro) who bring him home while he recovers. And we really, really want to like the girl (Lawrence) that comes into the life of Cooper’s character and shows herself to be both what he needs and what he fears.
Rightfully, Cooper eschews his pretty boy image and instead produces a character that is obviously severely troubled and probably shouldn’t be in the general population. Suffering a break from sanity related to his adulterous wife and their already unhealthy relationship, he emerges from the institution still wearing the scars of that experience. Cooper throws himself into the role and lets us into the mind of Pat by showing in his controlled physicality all that is going on inside him. Obsessed with a reunion with his wife, he blasts his way through his friends and family in the pursuit of wholeness.
Into his life comes another broken soul in the form of young widow Tiffany played to perfection by Lawrence. Though originally cast with Anne Hathaway, I can’t imagine Hathaway bringing the same quality that Lawrence does to the multi-layered role. Lawrence started off 2012 with a towering performance in the blockbuster The Hunger Games and has ended it with an award-worthy leading role that might just break your heart. 2012 isn’t quite over yet but Lawrence may have given the performance of the year.
More good news in the acting department comes from DeNiro who is doing his best work in years. Strangely attracted to random roles (Being Flynn, Red Lights), he seems to have landed on a real winner here with a part that was changed from the book and tailored to DeNiro’s strengths. DeNiro reminds us why he’s one of the great actors the silver screen has ever seen when he opens up to his son about regrets and disappointment. At the screening I attended author Quick was present and he let us know that DeNiro and Cooper had a father-son bond going into the film and it’s clear to see a high level of respect between the two men in a few blazingly powerful scenes of honesty.
Honest is an adjective I’d use to describe the film because it doesn’t go for the easy out or simple explanation. It presents a viewpoint in the lives of a fractured family as they pick up the pieces and see if they can fit together again. Though Cooper, Lawrence, and DeNiro are standouts…there’s nice work from Weaver, Tucker, Stiles, Whigham, and Kher. Only Ortiz strikes a sour note…but that’s mostly due to his role being given a bit too much weight that doesn’t feel justly earned.
It’s hard to really describe the film in great detail without uncovering some of the surprises it has in store for you along the way. It’s terrifically funny but colored with a deeply felt melancholy that could only work in the right hands. Thankfully, the right hands are all over the film in its diverse score by Danny Elfman, an inspired soundtrack of spot-on song titles, clever and constantly in motion cinematography by Masanobu Takayanagi, and the strong script by Russell who has a great ear for believable dialogue.
Russell’s last film The Fighter spelled Oscar gold for Christian Bale and Melissa Leo and it’s not hard to see award potential in this film as well. Expect this to be an Oscar favorite (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor) when nominations are announced. Though it’s mid-November and more award-targeted films are waiting in the wings, I’d say that Lawrence is looking primed to nab a Best Actress Oscar for her work here.