SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK Review

I am a late comer to the Silver Linings Playbook party, but nonetheless I am happy to be here. I have always been anxious to see how this film turned out since first hearing the rumblings and seeing a few set photos. I even listed it in my honorable mentions section for the films I most anticipated for the fall of 2012 before the Toronto International Film Festival and before all of the positive reviews came rolling in. Though it is a David O. Russell film and that fact alone is enough to interest me after The Fighter, it also has an extremely appealing and surprising cast. It is not the typical type of film you see being lauded with praise and nominated for awards, but I'm glad it is. Silver Linings Playbook falls somewhere into the conventions of a Hollywood romantic comedy yet is the antithesis of these types of films at the same time. It takes everything you know and expect from that type of film and turns it on its head. It is a movie that makes you feel as if someone who watched one too many of the contrived rom-coms called their bluff and developed a sincere film with real people, layered characters and situations that we might be more inclined not just to believe, but to trust with a story so ultimately lovely and life affirming. It is, on one hand, a gritty drama that looks at what happens after a life changing event and on the other a true to life comedy that captures all the right moments with the perfect tone. I went into the film with high expectations, of course, but more importantly I think it was the high hopes I held that were more satisfied as I looked upon the final, comforting shot. It is not the most unconventional of stories, but it is a story of characters and how they genuinely make it day to day. A heartwarming tale that doesn't feel manipulating, but rather like the story of the neighbors down the street.

Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook.
If you've read Matthew Quick's novel from which writer/director David O. Russell adapted the screenplay then you know the way in which the story unfolds and many of the facets for which things happen are completely different. Different in a way that most films adapted from novels are not. This isn't simply a condensed version of the story, but is in fact a different way of telling it completely. This doesn't mean that the book is better than the movie, that kind of comparison isn't even relevant in this situation. The book and film feel like a completely different entity only linked by the names of the people and the themes they represent. The storytelling techniques differ completely. Sure, there are certain things cut for time and not as elaborated on in the film as they were in the book (I would have liked to see more of the Asian Invasion and Pat's relationship with his brother) but the film also does away with some of the more conventional trappings of the novel as well. The film follows Pat (Bradley Cooper) as he leaves a mental institution after having beat the man his wife was cheating on him with within an inch of his life. It is learned through this altercation that Pat has bipolar disorder and Silver Linings Playbook is him coming out of that stage in his life, redefining who he is and trying not necessarily to move on but to become what he feels he should have been before the incident. Though Russell doesn't spend a ton of time wallowing on Pat's obsession to win back his ex-wife, Nikki (Brea Bee) and changes the dynamics of the relationship between Pat and his father greatly he does so in a way that doesn't disrespect the source material but enhances the developments of the story that come along in the final acts of the film.

Still, what anchors the book, what is the rock of the novel is still the main focus within the film and that is the developing relationship between Pat and Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence). Tiffany is a damaged figure herself having suffered through the death of her husband, Tommy. It is immediately obvious that Pat's friend Ronnie (John Ortiz) and his wife Veronica (Julia Stiles) try to set up he and Tiffany, who is Veronica's sister. It is clear there is a connection between the two and the magic of the film is watching these two outcast characters connect with one another knowing they are the only two people in the world being honest with one another about one another. As Pat, Cooper displays the knack for comedic timing he's always had but also tackles a very complex character that has more than his share of issues. Pat can go off at the sound of a certain song, he is unable to contain himself in conversation, saying only what is on his mind, and he is dedicated whole heartily to whatever endeavor he decides to take on. Whether that be reading the books on Nikki's syllabus to be able to talk with her more, working out and losing weight to become more fit for his ex-wife, or practicing non-stop for a dance competition at the hopes of finally speaking with his long lost Nikki. Through all of this Cooper not only shows the same dedication to the role, but he makes it look easy, so natural and freewheeling. This actually matches very well with the direction of Russell. It is loose, the tone of the entire film based on its quick pace and blink or you miss them insightful thoughts. It is truly an effortless experience and that is what makes the film, as a piece of art, so good.

Jacki Weaver and Robert DeNiro worry for their sons sanity in Silver Linings Playbook.
As Tiffany, Lawrence does equally exceptional work. The story itself uses the conventions of its genre  to help the general audience relate and feel comfortable while the characters are what rip us out of that comfort zone. Pat is what rips us out of our comfort zone and Tiffany is the one that brings him down to earth, the only one who is real with him and in turn doesn't necessarily cause him to feel more comfortable, but at least more like himself; more of the man he wants to be rather than the one he feels he needs to be. The entire supporting cast is wonderful though, truly. I love that Russell finally gave Chris Tucker something to do other than star in a movie with Jackie Chan and both Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver as Pat's parents are not your typical, bland supporters but instead people whose actions directly result in the choices of their son. This has probably been the case for a long time now, the similarities becoming daunting after the diagnosis of Pat. DeNiro is at the top of his game here as an obsessed Eagles fan who believes in superstition when it comes to his team and relies heavily on betting on them to support the family and get his business going. It is not the type of role you might expect for two, older parents, but the way they figure into the lives of their kids and the community only makes the film, the people feel straight out of life and brutally honest; moreso than anything we've seen in this type of film in a very long time. Silver Linings Playbook is wonderful example of a director not nestling into a certain genre of moviemaking but instead finding unpredictability in every kind of story. David O. Russell brings that notorious flavor to this film about abnormal people with meaningful issues and creates a hilarious and heartwarming movie that is so very easy to love.