Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Silver Linings Playbook is a thought-provoking comedy-drama, capturing the true essence of character and football spirit.
In Silver Linings Playbook, Bradley Cooper stars as Pat Solitano Jr., a former teacher who has stayed in a mental hospital for eight months because of a psychotic break, where he attacked his ex-wife’s lover. Pat learns in the hospital that he has undiagnosed bipolar disorder and, to combat his troubles and get his life back on track, he must work hard to achieve his silver lining.
One day, Pat’s mom Dolores (Jacki Weaver) discharges Pat from the facility—against the psychiatrist’ recommendation—bringing him home in Philadelphia, where Pat’s father, Patrizio—a longtime Philadelphia Eagles fan—(Robert De Niro) runs a football bookmaking business to make ends meet. Surprised to figure out Dolores has discharged Pat from the hospital, Patrizio questions her on why she discharged Pat from the facility, wondering if the doctors recommended for Pat to stay. Pat insists that he is better and ready to put his life back in order. He proclaims that he is going to get back into shape, read his ex-wife’s (teacher) reading syllabus, and control his mood swings, so he can rekindle their relationship. Concerned for Pat’s delusional behavior and expectations, Dolores and Patrizio warn him that he shouldn’t focus on getting back with Nicki because she left and sold their house. Patrizio and Dolores’ warnings go unheeded as Pat relentlessly tries to pursue contact with Nicki, despite the restraining order placed on him.
One night at a friend’s party, Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence). Tiffany, who shares similar mental problems with Pat, is recovering from her husband’s death and wants to find solace in Pat. Initially disdained with Tiffany, Pat avoids her. However, as the two interact with each other more, Pat and Tiffany form a bond, which leads to Pat and Tiffany making a deal: Pat will practice and dance with Tiffany for her dance competition, and in return, Tiffany will give Pat’s letter to Nicki.
But, the more Pat hangs out Tiffany and his family, he starts to realize that maybe this dance competition is linked to the silver lining he was looking for.
Based upon the novel of the same name, Silver Linings Playbook was adapted for the big screen by writer/director David O. Russell. Russell, who has built a solid filmography with films like Three Kings and The Fighter, once again brings another great film to the big screen. In Playbook, Russell holds up a magnifying glass to middle-class culture, football fanaticism, and mental disorders. He explores how life experiences, culture, and family affects how people interact in the world and how they change by their experiences. As a result, Russell successfully balances dramatic and comedic elements as well as heartfelt touching moments that are sprinkled throughout the film.
Like his past films, Russell devotes a lot of screen time to developing his characters. In Playbook, he not only develops the two main characters—Pat and Tiffany—he also dedicates a lot of time to uncovering character traits and desires of the minor characters. Scenes of Pat and Tiffany practicing for the dance competition reveal their motivations, hidden desires, and fears. The scenes of Patrizio show how he is obsessed with The Philadelphia Eagles and believes that if he follows certain rituals, then the Eagles will have a better chance of winning. By devoting a lot of screen time to the characters, Russell creates well-realized characters as well as interesting dynamics between them; consequently, as Russell takes his time capturing the essence of these characters, the main plot is drawn out—which in this case, would have worked better if Russell would have cut some scenes out from the film. Taken as a whole, Playbook is entertaining to watch, especially because of the amazing performances from the cast.
Bradley Cooper stars as Pat and, in this role, breaks type-casting by showing more dramatic range than he has ever done. As Pat, Cooper uses character expressions to show the amount of pain Pat is in, allowing viewers the opportunity to sympathize with Pat’s delusional (but innocent) nature. Cooper does a great job in Playbook, but the true standout in the film is Jennifer Lawrence. As Tiffany, J Law must bounce back from sane to insane all in the same scene. For what the film required her to do, J Law delivers a memorable performance and, at the same time, proves she’s one of the most talented performers in Hollywood.
On the supporting front, Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver turn in solid performances as Patrizio and Dolores, respectively. De Niro manages to portray Patrizio as a sympathetic father who wants the best for his family. As a character, Patrizio could have come across as insane with his superstitions and compulsions; however, with De Niro in the role, he makes sure to carefully show rational reasoning through his actions. Weaver is fittingly good as Dolores. As the character, she conveys sympathy and compassion for Pat.
Actors Chris Tucker, John Ortiz, Anupam Kher, and Julia Stiles bring true talent to the dramatic and comedic scenes. Chris Tucker and John Ortiz both bring a lot of levity to the film as Danny and Ronnie, respectively. Tucker pops up throughout the film and steals the attention every time. John Ortiz, as Ronnie, is Pat’s friend who is under a lot of pressure to provide for Veronica (Julia Stiles) and his child. Scenes of Ortiz confiding in Pat are hilarious to watch, especially when Pat offers his candid opinions to him. Anupam Kher (Dr. Cliff Patel) and Julia Stiles play the smallest parts in the film, but successfully play off the other characters whenever onscreen.
Overall, Silver Linings Playbook is a rich, entertaining character-study, filled with great moments of drama and comedy. Russell successfully characterizes people and captures the true spirit of middle-class culture, all in 122 minutes. The film could have been more streamlined if parts were cut; nonetheless, Playbook is still is an engrossing movie, filled with top-notch acting performances.
Rating: 4 out of 5
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