Silver Linings Playbook (4 out of 5 Stars)
Directed and Written by David O'Russell (The Fighter, Three Kings, I Heart Huckabees)
Starring:Bradley Cooper, Jennfier Lawrence, Jacki Weaver, and Robert DeNiro
David O. Russell's last film The Fighter was a true testament to his versatility. The film was a little more of a by the book story that lacked the dark sense of humor present in his other films, Three Kings, Flirting with Disaster and I Heart Huckabees. Silver Linings Playbook has blended together these two different styles. Based on the novel with the same name by Matthew Quick, O'Russell creates a story that is both sad and touching.
The film starts with Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) being picked up by his mother Dolores Solitano (Jacki Weaver) from a state institution after he spent 8 months there on a plea bargain. Pat goes back home to live with his mother and father Pat Solitano Sr. (Rober DeNiro) in Philadelphia. As soon as Pat gets back to Philadelphia he begs his mother to take him to the library so he can pick up the books from Nikki's syllabus. Nikki was Pat's wife, and during their marriage Nikki was found cheating on Pat with a fellow teacher. Pat snapped and beat the guy up pretty bad, and after his time in the treatment facility he has to deal with his own undiagnosed bi-polar disorder.
Pat feels triggers through songs, books, and interactions with his friends and their families. As Pat tries to fight his way to re-connecting with Nikki, he ends up meeting Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence). Tiffany is a young widow whose husband was killed, and through her grief she has started to like Pat openly speak her mind, but also use her body and sex to cope with her own depression. Together these two start to form an unconventional bond that may just bring out the best in them both.
The films fleshes out the characters well, and has helped to focus O'Russell's development within his career as a writer/director. O'Russell's screenplay is spot on in the way he adapts Quick's work; he boils down the story to get at the true emotion. While I was never a huge fan of the The Fighter, O'Russell conveyed the same skills within his screenplay for that film. O'Russell channelled an honest representation of the way in which people cope with their own grief/mental instability, while infusing some genuine humor.
As you watch both of the leads of screen you realize you are watching fully formed performances that evolve throughout the film. Bradley Cooper was the given the role of his career (so far) with Pat Solitano, and he did not disappoint. Cooper has often played that dick best friend, or just that dick in films like The Hangover, or Wedding Crashers. While his character is not well mannered in social mores, Cooper brilliantly tackles the struggle of Pat and the way he has to fight to stay above water in order to find happiness.
Most of the happiness is due to Tiffany played impeccably by Jennfer Lawrence. Lawrence has wowed in numerous roles like The Hunger Games, and even scored Lead Actress nomination for her work in Winter's Bone, but this is a one of a kind performance. Lawrence is sexy, raw, and her emotional journey happens as she finds solace in Cooper's character. Lawrence is one of the best younger actresses working today, and she nails all the intricate levels of this role.
Along with two great lead performances, O'Russell seems to use his supporting cast well, even if they are not the big named stars. DeNiro is funny and heart wrenching as Pat Sr.. Throughout the film you get to see the similarities between both Cooper and DeNiro's characters. DeNiro's obsession with superstition, the Eagles, while maintaining a love for his wife. DeNiro has not had a strong performance like this in many years, but as you get to watch his evolution his blind compassionate love for his son you get a a great glimpse into who Pat Sr. DeNiro is the shining light of the supporting cast, but people like Weaver, and Chris tucker who plays Pat's friend from the state institution help add heart to this film.
Silver Linings Playbook does not reinvent the wheel, but the script along with the acting give way to one of the most honest films about the psychology of moving forward in spite of mental illness. There is a raw honest in the script, and in many of the performances. While there is a darker tone the end message is that when all has gone wrong or you think you have hit rock bottom you have to look for "silver lining."