Following the success of The Fighter writer/director David O. Russell has returned with another sharp dramedy that does what he does best: family disfunction. Based off of Matthew Quick’s 2008 novel of the same name, Silver Linings Playbook is the story of Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) a man recently released from a mental health facility. He was sent there after brutally beating his wife’s secret lover and now must learn to cope with rage brought on by bipolar disorder. Pat moves in with his parents Dolores (Jackie Weaver) and Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro), but because of a restraining order cannot reconnect with his ex-wife. Along the way he meets another damaged soul in Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) an equally neurotic individual with an edge. The results are sometimes funny, sad, awkward, and sometimes all three at once.
I am not going to lie, Silver Linings Playbook was exactly what I expected. I enjoyed it for the most part but like The Fighter it feels very by the numbers for David O.Russell. The familiar beats and rhythm of the film, I was never too surprised by anything. What the film does well is that it provides strongly developed characters performed with great care. Say what you will about Bradley “All About Steve” Cooper but he’s very good at tapping into the brooding animosity of this character. Jennifer Lawrence is as usual solid, but I struggle with watching her play a character obviously beyond her years. Even if I can get over the fact there is a 15 year gap between her and the Coop, her character is supposed to be the widow of a three-year marriage. It doesn’t matter how good Jennifer Lawrence is the character was clearly written for an older actress and it’s distracting.
Silver Linings Playbook is more than just it’s two magnetic leads. Jacki Weaver provides laughs and empathy as the Coop’s mother and De Niro… He’s De Niro! It’s definitely been awhile since I’ve seen De Niro in something worth seeing and he doesn’t disappoint. De Niro plays an obsessive Philadelphia Eagles fan overwhelmed by superstition. My only complaint is that he’s not on screen enough. Fortunately, his betting ways end up playing a crucial role in the film’s last half when it becomes parlayed with a dance competition. Now that’s a final act I can get behind! Oh yeah, and Chris Tucker is in this as one of the Coop’s eccentric friends from the mental facility. I haven’t seen Chris Tucker in awhile and he’s good here. I have no idea why he disappeared for so long and no idea why he decided to return to acting with this but I’m glad he’s back.
Critics are calling Silver Linings Playbook an early Oscar frontrunner, I don’t understand why that is. The performances are definitely good, I could see the Coop maybe getting an oscar nomination and maybe Jennifer Lawrence getting a supporting nomination. Still, I can’t imagine this winning anything. If it wasn’t for the fact this came out during Oscar season no one would be talking about it. Not to say it isn’t good, but Silver Linings Playbook doesn’t give us anything we haven’t already seen before. I’d put it on par with Russell’s The Fighter. Silver Lining’s Playbook maybe even a little lower because The Fighter had a much clearer breakout performance in Christian Bale. Plus there’s nothing I enjoy more than Mark Wahlberg playing a blockhead. Not even a movie that mentions the Seattle Seahawks more than once.