Review: Silver Linings Playbook
I base my movie viewing choices on a number of criteria, reviews play a large part in what I see as well as an interest in the subject, and who the director In the case of the Silver Linings Playbook, having David.O.Russell at the helm was probably the major reason for my buying a ticket. I'm a big fan of The Fighter and Three Kings.
In a nutshell (no pun intended), Pat Solanto Jr. (Bradley Cooper) has been released from a mental institution in to his parents' care after having spent most of his life as an undiagnosed bi-polar sufferer incarcerated after an altercation with his wife. Pat's dad, Pat Solanto Sr. (Robert De Niro), is a die-hard Philadelphia Eagles fan and since losing his job is doing some bookmaking from the confines of his living room to earn an income. Pat moves in with this parents but refuses to take any of his medication, which results in irregular 3am shenanigans debating such things as the merits of the writings of Ernest Hemingway as well as the smashing of bedroom windows. Via some old friends Pat Jr finds himself in the same orbit as Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence). Tiffany is also mentally and emotionally damaged due to the somewhat recent death of her husband in an accident. An interesting relationship ensues, though initially not romantically, as each in their own way seeks to assist the other towards recovery as well as their own personal end-goal (Pat wants a letter delivered to his estranged wife,Tiffany wants to enter a dancing competition and needs a partner). Throw in to the mix a father who is highly superstitious when it comes to his beloved Eagles winning and decides to literally bet the house on the combined results of a dance competition and a football game and you have an interesting combination that's one part Cuckoo's Nest and another part Strictly Ballroom.
Russell adapts the novel the film is based on with ease, instilling the right amount of charm, grit and quirk. He shines his torch not only on the issues of the central characters but also the problems and travails of everyone surrounding. In the real world everyone has their own problems.
You couldn't call it a comedy, even though it has comedic elements to it, yet it's played too lightly to be a thought provoking dramatic treatise on the issue of mental health. The performances are fine, Cooper and Lawrence both do some of their best work, as does Jackie Weaver despite being landed a rather thankless part. For my money the shining star is De Niro who embellishes the role of a confused, somewhat guilt-ridden yet ultimately loving father trying to do his best to understand and help his son.
At its heart it's a love story about broken people. It's uplifting but not cloying. It starts to fray a little at the edges during the last quarter but by then it has banked up so much goodwill that ultimately you can forgive the few 'feel good' liberties it starts to take. It ends on a cliché, but the majority of the ride to it is anything but. Give it a shot.
Ticket Price rating (standard cost: $18.50) = $16.
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