Title: Silver Linings Playbook
The Weinstein Company
Director: David O. Russell
Screenwriter: David O. Russell, from Matthew Quick’s novel of the same name
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence. Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker, Anumpam Kher
Screened at: Dolby88, NYC, 11/9/12
Opens: November 16, 2012, wide November 21, 2012
David O. Russell knows how to write and direct quirky comedies. Think of what was then a boundary-pushing “Spanking the Monkey,” about a promising pre-med student at MIT forced to stay home to care for his temporarily disabled mother and assuming charge of a suburban home. He is disturbed about losing his internship, spends time spanking the monkey, and cannot resist Oedipus urges. The girl next door complicates his life. Similarly in “Silver Linings Playbook,” the action takes place in a suburb (of Philadelphia), the girl-next-door complicates the hero’s life, and he may have inherited some mental illness from his father. Still, “Silver Linings Playbook” is mainstream on the one hand, though on the other hand you will not find a romantic comedy on TV or, for the most part, on the big screen, as original, hilarious, and at the same time poignant. It doesn’t hurt that the acting of the two principals is extraordinary enough to warrant end-year awards consideration as well.
The movie is anchored by stunning comic performances from Bradley Cooper as Pat and Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany, a pair of neighbors so much alike that you might say they “found each other.” Pat has been institutionalized in Baltimore for beating up a fellow teacher whom he caught taking a shower with his wife, Nikki. The cuckolded gent not only loses his house but is ostracized by his wife who has taken out an order of protection. When Pat, diagnosed with bipolar syndrome (though we never see him as anything but manic), meets Tiffany, a similarly high-spirited neurotic, the attraction is electric—though since this is rom-com territory, the two may not formally announce their bond until the story’s conclusion.
We see how Pat got the way he did, as his unemployed dad Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro), is himself hyper, has obsessive-compulsive traits which push him into making risky bets as a bookmaker. He seeks to amass enough money to open a restaurant despite the pleas of his more rational wife, Dolores (Jacki Weaver). While Pat Sr. ultimately puts all his chips on a table by an unusual bet—that the Philadelphia Eagles football team for which he has accumulated several years of tapes will win a particularly game and that his son will get at least five points out of ten in a dance contest.
Directed in a hyper style throughout,” Silver Linings Playbook,” a movie whose title posits Pat’s view that despite his mental illness he is getting better physically and mentally, gains additional comic relief in the form of Chris Tucker in the role of Danny, who became friends with Pat as a fellow resident in the Baltimore institution. With the help of Dr. Cliff Patel (Anupam Kher), a psychotherapist who is himself an avid fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, Pat finds a silver lining through a troubled relationship with Tiffany—widowed after three years of marriage and depressed enough to have taken on affairs with eleven men. She literally runs after Pat, who regularly shows her his wedding band and refuses to take her to his bed as he is loyal to the wife he hopes to win back.
There is not a wasted word in the script nor does cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi get a moment to rest as his camera weaves and bobs whether in Pat’s home, outdoors on the jogging path, or amid a vast crowd waiting to attend the football game. Nor has Robert De Niro been this bubbly since his role as Jack Byrnes in “Little Fockers.” As if the entire movie were not over-the-top frantic, the climactic scene on a hotel dance floor is exhilarating.
Rated R. 122 minutes © 2012 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B+
Acting – A-
Technical – B+
Overall – A-