Review by Maria A. Cortes
A new, highly anticipated movie Silver Linings Playbook by David O. Russell stars Jennifer Lawrence as a young widow and Bradley Cooper as her love interest who is suffering from bipolar disorder. Scheduled to be released at the Somerville Theatre on November 21, the movie never made it to the big screen in Somerville, since the film studio The Weinstein Company withdrew the movie release plans. A touching love and life story from the Silver Linings Playbook will hopefully be shown to the Somerville audience in the near future.
The movie begins with Bradley Cooper’s character Pat Solitano being released from a mental institution after spending eight months trying to control his anger and mood swings. Pat is a former teacher. Former because of the one incident that locked Pat into the Baltimore State Mental Hospital. He found out that his wife Nikki (Brea Bee), an English teacher at a local school, is cheating on him with the history teacher. Pat “snapped” and beat him up almost to death. Taken out of the hospital by his mom, Pat is now living with his parents and trying to get his life back with the help of his “silver lining” positive outlook.
Despite all the pain Nikki caused him, Pat still loves her and desperately tries to reach her, even though Nikki filed a restraining order against him. Over a dinner at his friend’s house, Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who offers her help in getting a letter from Pat to Nikki. In exchange for her favor, Pat will be Tiffany’s partner in an upcoming dance competition. Reluctant at first, Pat realizes that Tiffany is his only way to reach out to Nikki and accepts Tiffany’s conditions. As Pat starts training with Tiffany, he begins to discover the ways of controlling the emotions that are responsible for his actions, and dealing with his family and friends who happen to be even “crazier” than he is.
It seems that David O. Russell found a formula for a perfect movie: pick a great story that can relate to everyone (preferably set in some local neighborhood), cast some great actors (not necessarily famous, but with a keen sense of an emotion), set a specific rhythm and have the actors live the story out. Add a great score to that, and get one of the best movies of the year.
How simple! Russell used it for The Fighter and got seven Academy Award nominations. It can be easily predicted that Silver Linings Playbook with its touching story backed up by the best performances from Lawrence and Cooper is a definite candidate for the Oscars this year. David O. Russell was able to squeeze an entirely different story in his favorite frame that worked so well in The Fighter: Same small community, same not-good-enough-yet “hero,” same “crazy” family in an always crowded house, and same troubled female character that gets another chance of fixing her life after she meets the “hero.”
Although similarities with The Fighter on the structural level are obvious, Silver Linings Playbook delivers a more lyrical and personal story. The fact that Russell’s own son is bipolar definitely contributes to that. It is full of humor and funny moments, but it is also full of life, with problems, swearing, lost jobs and pensions, stress, depressions, and weekly football games. Each character is presented with an incredible depth due to its constant position in a contrast with other characters. Thus, Pat is compared to his father (who also had a history of anger outbursts), to his brother (who is a “good” one in the family, while Pat is “the bad” one), and to his friend Ronny. The last comparison is significant, since it reveals that Ronny, who has a perfect family and a great house, is not happy at all but chooses to hide his true feelings under a big smile, while releasing his stress in a lone violent outbursts in his basement. Pat, conversely, spent months in a mental hospital and continues therapy, his marriage failed and now lives with his parents, and strongly disagrees with Ronny. David O. Russell gives the audience a chance to take sides and decide for themselves who is right and who is wrong.
As for the acting, Jennifer Lawrence as a young woman who lost her husband and has been trying to get in terms with life ever since is as good as ever with her realistic play. Bradley Cooper positively delivers his best performance in years in Silver Linings Playbook. Chris Tucker brings some good laughs, Australian actress Jacki Weaver is exceptional as Pat’s mother, and Robert De Niro, who plays Pat’s enthusiastic football fan-father, will evoke a whole range of emotions and even tears. The camera work perfectly reflects the characters’ inner feelings: in the beginning, close ups make you feel trapped in Pat’s memories and anger. At the end, the camera catches a whole family gathering with Pat finding harmony and peace within himself. The perfect emotional rhythm that David O. Russell was able to find in his latest works and implement into his new movie Silver Linings Playbook makes it a must-see of this Christmas season.
Silver Linings Playbook: directed by David O. Russell. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker. Rated R.