Silver Linings Playbook

Plot

After a stint in a mental institution Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) is determined to get his life together reunite with his wife with the mild problem of a restraining order. He meets the equally damaged Tiffany ( Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence), a young widow and the two form a connection through their mutual suffering.

Review

From the writer-director of (most recently) The Oscar winning The Fighter, to the bizarre I Heart Huckabees which threatened to ruin his reputation, it was initially difficult to picture just how David O. Russell’s latest film would turn out, not only in terms of success but also in tone.

Fortunately, in terms of quality, it is closer to The Fighter though with marginally fewer fistfights. Bradley Cooper gives an intense performance as Pat and it is great to see him expanding his range and appearing in a more dramatic role. His performance is strong and he certainly conveys the Pat’s instability and though his violent mood swings are convincing in what is arguably his best performance to date if slightly one-note at times. His delusional optimism often gives way to fits of rage as we soon learn that his premature release from the institution and refusal to take his medication has still left him with many unresolved issues. Unable to see that a reconciliation with his adulterous wife (the discovery of this betrayal being the catalyst of his breakdown) who has taken out a restraining order against him seems unlikely, he focuses all his energy into improving himself enough to win her back. When he meets Tiffany an unstable widow prone to bouts of promiscuity and who uses brutal honesty to hide her vulnerabilities, the two are drawn together through their loneliness and Tiffany persuades Pat to partner her in a charity dance competition in exchange for breaking the confines of the restraining order and delivering a letter to his estranged wife on his behalf.

 Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany is undoubtedly the highlight of the film and once again proves herself a formidable talent, confirming that her 2010 Oscar nomination for Winter’s Bone was no accident. At only 22, she may well have another nomination under her belt come February. We all know how much the Academy loves issues such as mental illness, Joaquin Phoenix is also a shoe-in for his fractured performance in this years’ The Master. Her multi-layered performance as the ‘crazier’ of the two (according to Pat) is at times heartbreaking and damaged and others brash and completely unpredictable and she more than holds her own in a powerful scene sparring with De Niro (and just about everyone else). Her mature take on such an enigmatic character makes the fact that she is playing a character significantly older than herself (in the book Tiffany is 28) and the 15 year age gap between the two leads is barely noticeable. Their tempestuous chemistry is what sells the story and with Lawrence’s ever increasing Hunger Games fan base and the casting of Bradley Cooper there will be more than enough appeal to the younger generation of movie-goers.

The supporting cast of Jacki Weaver, and Robert De Niro are also strong as you would expect and help to give an insight into Pat’s mental state, De Niro’s character is obsessed with American football to an extreme degree though much of the sports talk will be lost on international audience. Chris Tucker, who we haven’t seen since 2007′s Rush Hour 3 is a witty addition to the supporting cast as is Julia Stiles (10 Things I Hate About you) as Tiffany’s stuffy sister.

 With deeper issues than typical rom-com fare, there are some very intense scenes interspersed with light, comedic moments and dark humour. As the film develops, the tone does become a tad imbalanced though the ending becomes slightly contrived and predictable, with so many unbalanced characters, it is oddly fitting and therefore easier to forgive the divergence into a more generic rom-com.  The ending is pleasant all the same and all those Strictly Come Dancing fans out there will certainly enjoy the final dance scenes. 

 

Verdict

Like many of its characters, the tone sometimes verges into the erratic but there are wonderful moments of dark and light and two leads intense chemistry and Jennifer Lawrence’s volatile performance are the real silver lining. Lawrence has certainly proven herself one of the most talented actresses of her generation.

****

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  1. [...] have to sit through at the Oscars can be bypassed to get straight in to the good stuff. Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Skyfall and Les Miserables all received four each for their formidable casts though surprisingly [...]

  2. [...] 2. Silver Linings Playbook [...]



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