Can audiences find a silver lining in the new David O. Russell movie/
Directed by David O. Russell
Written by David O. Russell
Cinematography by Masanobu Takayanagi
Music Composed by Danny Elfman
Bradley Cooper ... Pat
Jennifer Lawrence ... Tiffany
Robert De Niro ... Pat Sr.
Jacki Weaver ... Dolores
Chris Tucker ... Danny
Anupam Kher ... Dr. Cliff Patel
John Ortiz ... Ronnie
Shea Whigham ... Jake
Julia Stiles ... Veronica
Paul Herman ... Randy
Dash Mihok ... Officer Keogh
Runtime: 122 min
MPAA: Rated R for language and some sexual content/nudity Official Website
Originally, the lead character in David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook" was supposed to be Mark Wahlberg. The two had collaborated on three movies over an 11-year period and it was Wahlberg who helped Russell get back in the game after on-set spats with George Clooney and Lily Tomlin cast a shadow over his star. However, Russell decided to swap out Wahlberg for Bradley Cooper, leading to a falling out between the pair.
That might be the best thing that ever happened.
I believe Wahlberg could have been really good in the movie as Pat, a young man who was an undiagnosed bipolar. However, Bradley Cooper completely owned the role and turned in a performance that should see him hear his name called when the 2012 awards nominations roll around.
Silver Linings Playbook begins with Pat in a mental institution. He is there due to court order, a plea bargain after he almost beat a man to death when he caught the guy in the shower with his wife. He was found guilty, diagnosed as bipolar and sentenced to psychiatric care in exchange for no jail time. After we see a little of his life in the institution, his mom (Jacki Weaver) shows up, gets him out and brings him home.
Once home, we learn why he is so messed up. His father is an obsessive compulsive, and at times in the movie seems to possibly be bipolar as well. His mother is meek and quiet, only able to achieve her wants and needs by trickery, but otherwise willing to believe the best of her husband and son and simply going about her life as peacefully as possible. It is clear that Pat has a lot of his dad in him and that drives him completely nuts. His wife has also placed a restraining order against him and he wants to prove he can change to win her back.
This is the setup, and there was a chance for the movie to lose its way as a result. For one thing, Pat lost a lot of weight and is trying to turn himself into what his wife wants. The people in the town treat him like an outcast and pariah and no one is willing to give him a chance. The fact that his wife was cheating on him with the man he beat up seems to not matter to anyone as they all look at her as the victim and Pat as the villain, especially a police officer who won't stop hounding him. It is sad and you immediately feel for this character.
That is why, from the moment he meets Tiffany, you want him to end up with her instead of changing himself for a wife who in no way deserves him. While not as strong as Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence turns in a solid performance as Tiffany. Lawrence reverts back to style, similar to her break out role in Winter's Bone, and creates her best character since that Oscar nominated performance. She has become an A-list blockbuster star, but this movie shows she is still at her best in smaller dramas.
Tiffany has problems of her own. She is a manic depressive, thanks to her husband dying in an accident while trying to help a stranded motorist. She blames herself because he was on his way home after buying her a gift in response to the fights they had been having. She responded to the death of her husband by promiscuously sleeping with everyone and recently lost her job for sleeping with everyone she worked with, male and female.
When the pair first meet, their discussion includes what medications they are on and then they argue about which of them is more messed up. They are a match made in Heaven.
Russell has always been great at showing the human drama inside his stories, and it is no different here. The best moments in the movie are little moments, from eating in a diner, to watching a football game to Pat learning how to dance in exchange for Tiffany sneaking a note to Pat's wife. However, these little moments tell us so much about these characters that they live with you long after leaving the theater.
The surrounding cast is also solid. Robert De Niro turns in an amazing performance as Pat's dad, giving himself over to Russell to demonstrate the obsessive compulsive disorder as well as letting loose when things don't go his way. If not for the ability to compare Pat to his father, the movie might not be as strong. Even as a weaker parent, Weaver is fantastic as Pat's mom, showing love and caring and proving that, behind the curtains, she is the one that holds the family together.
Chris Tucker has a small role as a friend of Pat's from the mental institution who is continuously trying to get out and provides some nice humor to the film. He is never the annoying Chris Tucker and provides a nice distraction at times. Another great character is Ronnie (John Ortiz), a close friend of Pat's. Ronnie provides a perfect antithesis to Pat, someone who is married with a new baby, who feels trapped and miserable in his relationship. While Pat wants to patch up his marriage, Ronnie doesn't even know if he wants to be in his. It is a great counterpoint and much needed in the movie.
The 411: At the end of the day, Silver Linings Playbook is another solid movie by David O. Russell. He brings out the best in his actors and both Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence should pick up some nominations for their performances. Don’t count out Cooper's chances for winning some either, although it has been a big year for lead male actors. The story is great with a fantastic ending and everything comes together nicely. If you want a feel good movie with some of the best acting of the year, you will find it in Silver Linings Playbook.