Silver Linings Playbook
Who’d of thought Bradley Cooper could actually act?
Today’s movie is Silver Linings Playbook a romantic comedy that breaks out of the cliche’s of that genre and presents itself more like a realist drama. It’s a movie about love, about love lost, and about living with mental illness but it’s also about about football, and family, and superstition, and dance, and redemption and most importantly it’s about two characters struggling to live, day by day, and make the best of it.
Bradley Cooper is remarkable in the leading role of Pat Solatano a former substitute high-school history teacher who, as the film begins, has just been released from eight months in an mental institution, diagnosed with bipolar disorder, following an “incident” involving his estranged wife. Pat has lost everything, his job, his house, and his marriage. As he moves back in with his parents he feels that his time in the hospital has given him a new outlook on life, he’s now looking to make a “silver lining” for his dark times, turn his life around and win his wife back.
Of course, he has a legitimate mental illness so that’s more easily said than done.
As Pat is progressing along his rocky road to a better life, he’s introduced to his best friend’s sister-in-law, Tiffany Maxwell, played by the phenomenal Jennifer Lawrence. Tiffany is, in her own way, every bit as damaged as Pat is. There’s an obvious and instant connection between the two, but their personal issues, Pat’s insistence on believing his marriage can be saved, and stresses caused by Pat’s father (Robert De Niro) an obsessive-compulsive bookie, whose superstitions place surprising demands on Pat’s time.
This film is, ultimately, a romantic comedy. However, it’s so different than most movies in that genre that the label hardly seems fair. The problem with rom-coms, at least to my way of thinking, is that they tend to be mindless female wish-fulfillment stories, with about as much basis in reality as Star Wars. The strength of Silver Linings Playbook comes from the fact that it all feels incredibly real. Sure, there are some conveniences and contrivances, especially in the third act, but by the time they come along they’re forgivable, because by that point director David O. Russell has spent more than an hour confronting the viewer with uncomfortable reality.
As should be expected with a movie that earned a nomination in all four Academy Award acting categories, (in addition to the De Niro and the two leads, Jacki Weaver has been nominated for her performance as Pat’s mother), the acting is phenomenal. The great performances aren’t just limited to those nominees, however. I was also impressed with the the turns by Chris Tucker, (in his first big screen appearance outside of the Rush Hour franchise since 1997,) Shea Whigham, and Anupam Kher all in important supporting roles.
As great as the supporting performances are, it’s Cooper and Lawrence that make the movie work. Like most people, I’d only ever seen Bradley Cooper in movies like Wedding Crashers and the Hangover series, so it was incredibly impressive to see his serious and completely believable portrayal of a character as complex and dynamic as Pat. He’s so good that at times I forgot that I was watching an actor performing a character.
I’d only seen Lawrence in Winter’s Bone, I was struck by how completely she transformed her performance here. It’d be enough of a challenge for a young actress playing a character “old enough to have a marriage end and not wind up in a mental hospital,” but Tiffany is an exceptionally complex character, she has to be every bit as messed up as Pat on some levels, and yet far more worldly and in touch on others.
This truly is one of the best movies I’ve seen since starting this blog. While I still have some work to do if I’m going to accomplish my goal of seeing all nine Best Picture nominated films before the Academy Awards are handed out, Silver Linings Playbook is definitely my favorite out of the four nominees I’ve seen thus far. It is absolutely a Must See.