Title: Silver Linings Playbook
Directed By: David O. Russell
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker, Anupam Kher, Julia Stiles, Brea Bee, John Ortiz
Writer-director David O. Russell excels, but his stars steal the show. Bradley Cooper makes for a charming and enigmatic lead, but Jennifer Lawrence steals his spotlight. While everyone involved in “Silver Linings Playbook” pushes the bar higher and higher, it’s Lawrence who’ll be the toughest to top.
After eight months in a psychiatric facility, Pat (Bradley Cooper) heads home to live with his mother and father (Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro). Determined to get his wife back, Pat dedicates every waking hour to the pursuit, much to the chagrin of his father who desperately wants Pat to watch the Philadelphia Eagles games with him. Despite Pat’s persistence, a restraining order keeps him from making much progress. It isn’t until he meets the equally unsound Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) that he finds a way around the court-mandated red tape – as long as he helps Tiffany out with her dance competition first.
“Silver Linings Playbook” is a romantic comedy with a profound amount of drama and depth, a slice of life yet an immensely satisfying story with a beginning, middle and end, it’s off-putting at times, but still the ultimate crowd pleaser. The film is like nothing you’ve seen before, fulfilling certain expectations and defying others, only to turn around and offer something you never saw coming.
Not only is Pat kind of crazy, but he’s violent. He did his time at the state institution because he nearly beat a man to death in a fit of rage. As Tiffany says, he says more inappropriate things than appropriate things, often loses his temper and is alarmingly obsessed with a woman who cheated on him. On paper, Pat’s as unlikeable as they come, but on screen, Cooper infuses him with an innocence and goodness you’d never associate with someone with a past like Pat’s.
It doesn’t take long for Russell to establish Pat’s fanatical behavior and it also doesn’t take long for Pat’s rants to grow old, but just before you’re compelled to give up hope, in comes Tiffany. Cooper may be front and center the entire time, but “Silver Linings Playbook” still feels like Lawrence’s movie. Tiffany may be brash to the max, but there’s something incredibly magnetizing about her and it primarily comes from the life and zest Lawrence gives her. Cooper does a fine job, but Lawrence manages Tiffany’s eccentricities in a more controlled manner. Pat is either hot or cold. Tiffany, on the other hand, has this range that makes her unpredictable and a bit more fun to track.
Weaver is almost entirely wasted as Pat’s mother while De Niro makes off with a far more complete character. Weaver is merely presented as the loving mother with a soft spot for her baby boy, but De Niro’s character’s got layers. He loves his son, but seems to find the Eagles and honoring his football betting superstitions just as important. Mom comes across more as a prop while dad packs the power to effect the plot.
And that’s one of very few missteps Russell takes as a writer-director. Russell takes an appropriately subdued approach to making this movie, which, while the smart choice, also makes for a greater risk; he’s just lucky he snagged such talented leads. The script is dialogue heavy and a little repetitive, but Lawrence and Cooper give their characters so much definition and heart, even the most mundane events, like eating a bowl of Raisin Bran, become all-consuming and surprisingly moving.
“Silver Linings Playbook” is funny and charming, but also has an underlying sadness that makes it wonderfully poignant. You get the satisfaction you’d expect from a romantic comedy and even a feel-good sports movie, but Lawrence and Cooper’s delicate treatment of their characters’ situations makes it far more than a fleeting source of entertainment.