The first fifteen minutes of director David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook is so manic with its overlapping speech and its continual feel of chaos you fear the worst. Then, like all good movies, something happens and before you know it you find yourself pulled in to the film’s uneven rhythm and even embracing its chaotic style.
Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) has just spent eight months in a state institution after beating the man he found cheating on his wife. The event sent him over the top and he’s lost all; his career, his wife and the house, so now he lives back with his parents, who appear just as dysfunctional. Dad (Robert De Niro) is an obsessive fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, and no conversation, no matter what the subject, is worth his time if he can’t somehow equate it with his beloved team. Then, Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) comes into Pat’s life carrying her own baggage of mental instability.
What makes Silver Linings Playbook so much fun is watching this cast of neurotic characters come to life with such energy and vigor by a top notch cast of players, including Robert De Niro as Pat Sr., a man banned from attending any Eagles’ game because of past bad behavior. Chris Tucker, who hasn’t done anything for years other than the Rush Hour films, plays effectively against type as best friend Danny, and Australian actor Jacki Weaver, so effective as the mother who would eat her own in order to survive in Animal Kingdom, is here the grounding agent. She’s the voice of reason in a roomful of oddballs who might tear each other apart if it was not for her ability to hold things together.
Bradley Cooper, who currently appears to be in every other new release these days, gives perhaps his best and most rounded performance ever as bipolar Pat, a man so torn apart by his wife’s infidelity that even though he declares to his doctor, “I’m not the explosive guy!” as soon as he hears Stevie Wonder’s Cherie Amour over the speakers he reacts with borderline violence. Cherie Amour was the song he was hearing at the time of discovering his wife’s affair.
But the center of attention whenever she’s there is Jennifer Lawrence as the persistent Tiffany, a widower and neighbor who was fired from her job because she had sex with everyone in the office, including the women. “I was depressed,” she said. Lawrence has already proved herself with the magnificent Winter’s Bone, not to mention The Hunger Games and its sequels to come, but to see her here among seasoned professionals like De Niro and to shine with such an emotionally multi-layered character is bliss to watch. When Cooper and Lawrence practice a dance routine together using Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor from Singin’ in the Rain as examples I wanted to replay that scene the second it was over.
The ending may divide some audiences – a little too tidy in its wrap up, perhaps – but for me it was the ending I wanted and I left the screening feeling totally satisfied. This is the time of year when studios start releasing what they consider to be their quality films and potentially their best of the year. Silver Linings Playbook is way up there.
MPAA Rating: R Length: 2 hours Overall Rating: 9 (out of 10)