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Apr 17, 2013

Review: Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

          Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker, Julia Stiles, Anupam Kher, Brea Bee, Shea Whigham, John Ortiz, Paul Herman and Dash Mihok.


                   David O. Russell.


                 Silver Linings Playbook is one of the best films from 2012 and undoubtedly, the best of the romantic comedies we have been forced to watched lately. This movie is a class of its own, something that might just be considered a classic in coming years not merely for the movie itself but for what it stands for and what it represents. David O. Russell is known very well for his particular way of making comedy films and its very well evident here. Silver Linings Playbook is the proud winner of Audience Choice Award from Toronto Film Festival as well as hundreds of other awards from various critics and awards bodies, including eight Oscar nominations (four in each of the acting categories). Highly acclaimed but still it was criticized or should i say mocked or brought down by people who just literally couldn't stand a movie like this being appreciated on such level. The inspiration for making this movie for Russell was his own son and of course, everything a filmmaker/actor says these days for his/her movie during the awards season is directed towards how successful they or their movie would be. I don't care about these things because its a different topic and has nothing to do with the movie itself, which is what people should understand because if you hate a movie because its director was busy preaching what this movie meant to him so that he would get awards for that, then you clearly need to understand difference between film criticism and Hollywood politics/Blogging about the industry. Anyways, Silver Linings Playbook is a movie that has many things. Mental illness, family drama, love story, sports and its about crazy people, the underdogs finding love and happiness in this world with what they've got and who they are.

                So Pat Solitano (Cooper) has bipolar disorder, he was sent away to a mental health facility because of some violent episodes that happened because his wife Nikki cheated on him with one of her professors. He is being released now after eight months and he'll be living with his parents. Pat Sr. (De Niro) doesn't work anymore, he earns money from bookmaking so that he can start his own restaurant. Pat has a court-mandated therapist assigned, Dr. Patel (Kher) and to him, he tells the interesting story of how he ended up in the facility. When Pat caught his wife cheating him in the shower, there was the song "My Cherie Amour" playing which was also their wedding song and now he just can't stand listening to it. So the movie basically begins in a pretty standard way while it continues to build things up for the characters. Pat is very much determined to get back on the track, get it all right this time and to win his wife back. Little does he know that there is a surprise waiting for him in his friend Ronnie's house. He meets Ronnie's sister in law, Tiffany (Lawrence) who is a young widow and have lost her job because she slept with literally everyone there due to her depression. From then on, Pat occasionally would run into her while jogging. Slowly they develop this odd friendship, two very unlikely and flawed people who shares somewhat the same neuroses and finds a meaning in their life. Its a very interesting dynamic that is created between these two. Both of them are trying to get away from people and things that have always caused them troubles no matter how much they've loved them and they find each other. They were in search for the kind of person in their life who would accept them for who they are and not who they want them to be, whether they realized it or not. David O. Russell did an amazing job here as a writer and director but specially as a writer. The dialogues moves at a pace of those old screwball comedies with a razer sharp edge given as well as the added drama that makes it quite the opposite of what you would have expected the original source material to be transformed into by any other director. This is a movie where sweet, whimsical and sugary touch would act as a buzz kill, this story doesn't need that. Both these characters have their dramas going on, there is an upcoming dance competition where Tiffany needs Pat's help and he finds a way to communicate with his wife through Tiffany, or does he? But that is not all, Pat's family barges in with their own sets of problems. Pat Sr. could really use his son, who he consider as a lucky charm, for a big game and its all just madness from there on.

                 Many people would argue that this movie gets too predictable towards the end. Well isn't that how these movies are suppose to end? I mean if there is a guy and then there is a girl, quite messed up ones in this case, they are suppose to meet. Its just that the entire movie with its both comedy, drama and excitement creates a kind of zone where anything that happens would rather add to it then destroy it. There is an infamous Christmas song, everything ends well and the guy finally realizes his feelings, the girl walks away because she misunderstands, he goes after her and they kiss. Its not a surprise but we are just too busy rooting for each one of them in different ways that we don't want to see either one of them getting their heart broken in the end and its that moment when we literally cheer, because we care about them. We might not be that messed up like them, not everyone of us, but still we can see ourselves in them is some ways. They reminds us of our mistakes, things that angry us, what we really want and how we want things to happen. Talking about the cast, what an amazing ensemble. This is one of the other reason why this movie works so well the way it does. Not only do we have a writer and director who knows what he is doing and how he should, we have an amazing cast with dedicated actors who make us a part of their characters so easily. Jennifer Lawrence is a very talented young actress who have given some amazing performances before this movie but here, she even outdone herself. First of all this role that she does is of a woman much older than her. Lawrence brings the kind of maturity that any other actress of the "required" age group would have wasted it on making the character a tradition rom-com diva whose job would only be to come into the life of this troubled hero and save him. Her personal story won't have mattered. With those deep, dark eyes and a slightly goth appearance in the movie and those occasional outbursts then sudden sensitivity, Lawrence gives the best performance in the movie. Secondly, we have Bradley Cooper who surprisingly gave a good performance i mean who would have thought that he would be one day nominated for an Oscar? His performance is very straight forward in a sense that he never relies on the gimmicks but treats his character "well enough" to actually make us believe that whatever demons he have, he can overcome them if he is given another chance. Cooper had the most surprising turn of any other actor in a 2012 movie.

                Now not to forget the supporting actors, Robert De Niro finally gives a performance worthy of accolades and praise after so many years of weird choices and B-grade action flicks. His performance as the superstitious and obsessed father who, just like his son, is battling with a madness of his own but he brought it on himself is amazing. One of the most rather poignant scenes in the movie comes when Pat Sr. talks to his son. One is where he breaks down and the other is where he encourages his son to stand up for himself towards the end. And then there is the ever lovely Jacki Weaver who plays Pat's mother, Dolores. Another quite effective performance as a mother, this time she plays a worried and a caring mom. Silver Linings Playbook carefully presents us every single character in a perfect way. Their own problems and then finding a way to be happy with something that they want becomes more of a priority than any other cliche you would expect. I mean recovery, reconciliation, redemption and rebuilding their lives is what basically the movie studies extensively. In a way, i see its resemblance with "Good Will Hunting" but this one is more funny and romantic. Another terrific comedy that makes us laugh due to some hilarious situations and the insane characters that it has while on the other hand, it never shies away from delving deep into the thick layer of darkness that lurks underneath everything. And none of these things cancels each other out in the end because Russell finds a perfect balance in the direction that he takes. It is a gamble for sure but he does it convincingly. That is a winning combination, quirky fun, entertaining, sensitive and very heartfelt movie.

Grade: A