Silver Linings Playbook * * * * 1/2

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Director: David O. Russell.
Screenplay: David O. Russell.
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker, Shia Whigham, Anupam Kher, John Ortiz, Julia Stiles, Dash Mihok, Paul Herman, Matthew Russell, Brea Bee, Cheryl Williams, Patrick McDade.

As a personal rule, I normally avoid comedies or dramas that involve romance. I find the formula tedious and repetitive, not to mention, dull. However, director David O. Russell’s material is often interesting and off-beat so I decided that I wouldn’t overlook this one (especially when it features my favourite actor in Robert DeNiro). I have to say, I have renewed faith in the genre when there are talented people involved and it’s futile to resist one with such depth and unpredictability as this has.

Pat Solotano Jr., (Bradley Cooper) is discharged from a state metal health institution after an eight month spell for bi-polar disorder that has led to him violently beating his wife’s lover. When released, he lives with his parents Dolores (Jacki Weaver) and Pat, Sr. (Robert DeNiro) and decides to get himself fit and healthy again to gain back his estranged spouse. While out jogging, he crosses paths with Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a recovering sex addict with mental health issues of her own but as their friendship grows, they realise that they can both help each other to achieve to their goals.

David O. Russell has tackled dysfunctional families before in “Flirting with Disaster” and “The Fighter” and mental health in “I Heart Huckabees” so in many ways, he’s on comfortable ground here and thankfully for us, it shows. He has a complete command over his material and even though you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is just your average, boy-meets-girl, romantic comedy, it isn’t. It teeters on the edge of formula but it also knows how to play with it and never becomes predictable. The ace in Russell’s pack, though, is the immeasurable help by a talented and commited cast. All the performances are absolutely excellent; Bradley Cooper is an actor that was always just been passable for me but here he shows a very impressive side to his acting talents; Jennifer Lawrence has impressed before in “Winter’s Bone” and “The Hunger Games” but this may well be her finest performance to date as she balances vulnerability and strength with ease. My favourite of the bunch, though, was seeing DeNiro finally get a role where he’s able deliver a whole range of emotions. One moment he’s breaking your heart, the next he’s in a fit of rage and also adds a lovely comic touch to things. Although, I was surprised at his Oscar nomination, I also wouldn’t argue with it. It’s great to have him back doing what he does best and hopefully this is the catalyst for bigger and better roles for him. I think we can all admit that he’s deserving of better material than he’s been getting of late. Added to which, apparently, it was DeNiro’s absolute commitment to the film that encouraged the rest of the cast to raise their game. While we’re on the subject of awards, all the leading performers have been Oscar nominated for their turns here (and that includes the great Jacki Weaver) – This is the first time this has been achieved by a cast since Warren Beatty’s political drama “Reds” in 1981. It’s also doesn’t hinder things when the talented likes of Chris Tucker and Shea Whigham are pitching in from the sidelines either. Ultimately, the plaudits must go to Russell for the deft handling of the material, though. Yes, it has generic elements of the genre but by the end, it can’t be pigeonholed and the characters aren’t your average troubled souls that are played for laughs or zaniness. There is a depth and pathos to their struggle and the intermingling of their fractured, dysfunctional obsessions is a hard balance to achieve. Russell manages it with aplomb and every one of his cast do too.

I’ve always been a fan of the off-beat nature of David O. Russell’s work but he has surpassed himself here and delivers an astute, not to mention, very refreshing commentary on mental illness.

Mark Walker

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59 Responses to “Silver Linings Playbook * * * * 1/2”

  1. Nice review. I was really surprised how much I liked this movie. Lawrence is especially great in her role and I think this is De Niro’s best film in a long time.

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    • Thanks man. I thought I might like it as I like Russell’s previous stuff but I was still surprised by just how good it was. Everyone was terrific in it and it brilliant to see DeNiro act again.

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  2. Great review Mark and agree wholeheartedly. I didn’t expect a huge amount going in to this but thought it was brilliant. I didn’t even really think it was about romance at all, that was all handled very subtly and was more about mental illness and having people to support you through it. Everyone was excellent in it and I think Jennifer Lawrence is fast establishing herself as a fine actress.

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    • Cheers Chris. It would seem that a lot of people got more than they expected from this. I felt that it did tread some romantic territory especially at the end but still brilliantly handled. I think that’s it for Lawrence now. She has proven time and time again how good she is.

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      • Yeah it ended up pretty much exactly where you thought it would but I felt the ending was earned and didn’t feel too formulaic.
        Lawrence has picked some great roles and seems like a great girl to boot. Haven;t seen Winter’s Bone yet but intend on checking that out very soon as I’ve heard it’s excellent.

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      • At first I wasn’t keen on how it ended but you are spot on Chris. It was earned and on an afterthought I accepted it.

        Lawrence was great in Winter’s Bone but I didn’t the film merited the plaudits it received. It wasn’t bad but not as good as it was made out to be.

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  3. Good stuff Mark. Believe it or not I still haven’t seen this. Something has made me keep my distance. I will be seeing it though. Soon.

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  4. All that matters is De Niro is great and I’m all over this πŸ™‚ Nicely done Mark

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  5. Good review Mark. Everybody is solid in this movie, and you got to give it the most to De Niro who really shows why we all know and love him in the first-place. No, not for Showtime. But for good performances in good movies like these.

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    • You said it Dan. It’s a perfect reminder of what the man is capable of. So good to see him back on form. I’m really excited to see where he goes from here. I’m hoping it spurs him on a bit further.

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  6. Great minds think alike. πŸ™‚
    I think what I likes about it…and you said as well “DeNiro finally get a role where he’s able deliver a whole range of emotions.” Spot on!

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    • Thanks man! I can’t praise DeNiro enough here. I’ve never been that keen on his attempts at comedy in the past but he does it very subtly in this film and also acts his serious socks off as well.

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  7. “Reds” was a bore. Echk. LOL

    Meanwhile, glad you liked this one. It’s obviously one of the big stories of the year, we’ll see how it does at Oscar time… seems as if Jennifer Lawrence is pulling out ahead of the pack!

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    • Not a fan of “Reds” then Fogs? I actually liked it. Thought it was brilliant.

      Glad to hear that Lawrence is pulling out in front. I’m hoping this at least gets a couple of awards. DeNiro getting one would make my year though. I’m definitely rootin’ for Bob. πŸ˜‰

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  8. Excellent work, mucker! Everyone sure is high on this movie – is it THAT good??

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  9. Excellent review, Mark! I love this: “It teeters on the edge of formula but it also knows how to play with it and never becomes predictable.” I couldn’t agree more.

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  10. Nice review. The daft title put me off when it first come out (fickle) but oscar buzz and word of mouth has made me want to catch it now. If its got Bob in it, then that’s good enough for me!

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  11. ray brayne Says:

    Biggest surprise of 2012. The mental health issues are real and first hand, as if the writer experienced it himself or with a family member. But these issues are also a terrific device to delve into the characters personalities, and even their souls. We care about these people right from the start, Pat Jr., who’s so sick he doesn’t know he’s sick, Pat Sr., OCD on the Eagles, Dolores the long suffering sane mother and guilt ridden Tiffany. They’re all longing for the same things, family, love, understanding and they get it here, after hard trials, in spades. While Deniro is terrific, like he always is, it’s Cooper and Lawrence big time. Their magnetism is spontaneous and electric. “Are you holding my hand?”, “No, I thought you were holding mine!” One says to the other. Great writing, great read. This film is so good I can forgive the Hollywood ending where their mental problems just seem to end.

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    • Totally agree Ray; biggest surprise of 2012. Yeah, apparently David O. Russell’s son is bi-polar and it shows in his understanding of it. Lawrence an Cooper are both outstanding together but i still took the most fun from DeNiro. The ending did grate me a little but I also forgave it. I only wish I touched more on the mental health side of things in my review now. Still, It’s one of my favourites of the year, without a doubt.

      Thanks, as always, for your comments Ray πŸ™‚

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  12. I’m not gonna lie this film got me choked up a few times when I watched it. I was expecting a lame ass romcom and got this glorious film instead. πŸ™‚

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    • Ha! I expected the same deal Adam. I thought it was romcom that would be passable but if was far more deeper and satisfying than I could ever have hoped. I thoroughly enjoyed this. I’m hoping it takes a few awards home with come the big night. It deserves it as much as “As Good As It Gets” did.

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  13. 4.5, yay! Glad you like this one Mark. You’re right this is Lawrence’s finest performance to date. Amazing that she’s got the emotional maturity of a 30-something though she’s only 22 when she did this!

    Glad to see DeNiro getting a role worthy of his talent. I think this might be my fave O. Russell’s film so far.

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    • Yay! Glad you agree here Ruth. Definitely worthy of a 4.5. It was absolutely brilliant. You’re spot on with Lawrence, she does show a maturity beyond her years. She could and (probably will) eventually become one of the classic actresses at this rate.

      As you know, I just love Bobby DeNiro and it was fantastic seeing him enjoying himself in a decent role again.
      Favourite O. Russell film…? Probably this for me as well and I’ve enjoyed quite a few of his.

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  14. daveackackattack Says:

    One of my films of the year. Jennifer Lawrence gave the best lead female lead performance this year. Bradley Cooper, you’ve come a long way from just being an audience member in James Lipton’s Inside The Actor Studio:

    Great story on why De Niro was so attached to this story. It shows in his acting:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/05/robert-de-niro-crying-silver-linings-playbook_n_2622396.html

    Been following David O. Russell since Spanking The Monkey with Alberta Watson, Jeremy Davies and a brace-faced Carla Gallo. He kind of lost me with I β™₯ Huckabees. Oddly enough I put off watching Three Kings because of the cast and trailer. I’ve since come around as it is a fantastic film that goes somewhere totally unexpected. I was genuinely thrown off by the “fun” trailer. The film is so much deeper than that.

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    • I’d give the best actress performance of the year to young Wallis from Beasts of the Southern Wild, now that i think of it Lawrence would definitely be worthy. Cooper also does some great work here. He most certainly has come a long way. My favourite is still DeNiro though. What range he displays and that a great you post Dave.

      I still haven’t seen Spanking The Monkey but I really want to. It’s the only one I haven’t seen of O. Russell’s I think. Many didn’t like I Heart Huckabees but I thought it was fantastic. A really intelligent and thought provoking comedy. It blew me away a little actually and one that I’d be happy to revisit again soon. Cheers Dave. πŸ™‚

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  15. Shared this on stumble/linkedin/digg/tumblr and twitter. Keep me informed man. I have to say Reddit has brought me jack shit today after yesterdays good results πŸ™‚

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    • Cool man! Nice one. I’ve always found Reddit to be the best but have to say that they’ve let me down today. I normally get at least 40 visits in the space of minutes. I’ll keep you informed though.

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  16. Excellent review, Mark! I was keeping away from this one as I also dislike rom coms of any kind, but I really want to see it now after reading your review. Good work! πŸ™‚

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    • Thanks Georgina! I can’t abide romcoms but beforehand this film seemed like that to me and proved to be something with far more substance. You should give it a go and see what you think. I was very surprised by it. Great little film.

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  17. Wonderful review. I like your rules, I try to stick to similar rules too, but I think that Silver Linings Playbook can’t be defined as a classical romantic comedy. That’s why those talented people had chosen to play these parts. Thanks for the article.

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    • Thank you Julie. This definitely went in a different direction from the tired old formula. I loved every minute of it and the performances were outstanding throughout. In so glad they all gave it such commitment, as the material was fantastic. Thanks for stopping by πŸ™‚

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  18. Great review, Mark! Glad you liked this film. I loved it as well. We gave it the same rating and I agree with your review. The acting was just superb. Loved Lawrence and De Niro and was really wowed by Bradley Cooper.

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  19. Glad you enjoyed this one! De Niro was fantastic I really hope he wins for this, Lawrence and Cooper was good but De Niro brought so much to this movie and I don’t think the story would work as well without him – he was so funny and so moving here.

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  20. Great review. didn’t think Weaver gave an Academy Award worthy performance, but she wasn’t bad…and neither was any of the cast. a great movie with real performances. Loved this movie

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    • I loved this too man. I’d agree, about Weaver. Her performance isn’t Oscar material but she underplays it brilliantly. DeNiro really stole the show for me but everyone pitched in with something of substance. Fantastic film and a real surprise.

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  21. While it’s wrong to market this at the rom-com audience, I still think there IS an element of it, especially towards the end. However it stands far above the ordinary fare thanks to the great characers, that feel like real people with real issues.

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    • There definitely is an element to it and formula does creep in. Other than that I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was sensitively approached and the performance were superb. I especially liked DeNiro but then I’m always biased towards him. He’s a legend! Thanks Jessica. πŸ™‚

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