Although it has big names like Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro and all but this is a film that ultimately belongs to Jennifer Lawrence, thus solidifying her as one of the best actresses of any age working today.
To begin with, “Who is David O’ Russell?” Well, do you remember the film, Spanking the Monkey or Flirting with Disaster or last year’s critically acclaimed film Three Kings? Yah that’s it!! He’s the one. His latest offering to all the film buffs is Silver Linings Playbook.
Based on Mathew Quick’s novel (Googled!), Silver Linings Playbook is the story of Pat Solatano (Bradley Cooper), a former substitute teacher and cuckolded husband who’s just emerged from eight months in a mental institution. Returning to his family’s home in Philadelphia suburbia, Pat reassures his warily supportive parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver) that he no longer needs medication, he’s in the best shape of his life, and he’s determined to woo back his wife, Nikki, who left him around the time of his confinement. But despite his persistent belief in silver linings (“Excelsior!” he’s fond of repeating to himself), it’s not long before Pat’s bipolar disorder, already apparent in his delusional tendencies and lack of anything resembling a verbal filter, begins to violently reassert itself.
Around the same time, Pat strikes up an unusual friendship with abrasive, dark-haired widow Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a self-described “crazy slut with a dead husband,” and apparently the sole neighborhood resident capable of relating to the local wacko. The film’s key tension is between Pat’s refusal to become intimate with a woman besides his wife, and Tiffany’s determination to open him up to new experiences, possibilities and people. Falling into his arms tearfully one minute, administering a sharp slap the next, Tiffany is a marvelously unstable element, daring Pat to judge her for her own past misdeeds, though she has no qualms about cutting through his defenses and attacking what she sees or doesn’t see in him.
As far as the script is concerned, it never lapses into mundane or uninteresting language. If we don’t count both the Hangover series, Bradley Cooper has emerged as an actor with this movie as he gives one of his best roles here as a damaged soul whose misconceptions nonetheless hide an unimpeachable core integrity. Yet it’s Lawrence’s Tiffany who has the most dynamic effect on the screen, always pushing Pat into a defensive position and, remarkably, making him look like a model of sanity by comparison.
Although I don’t like to compare a director’s previous films, but still somewhere down the line you get the feel of one of Russell’s previous ventures, Flirting with Disaster. Yet Silver Linings Playbook is a softer, gentler version of director’s previous works, following a traditional finding-yourself-and-falling-in-love template in the guise of something moderately darker and more subversive, it nonetheless boasts a level of charm, heart and formal sophistication increasingly rare among adult-driven studio comedies.
As much as this is a simple premise about unlikely people meeting and getting closer, Russell’s near-perfect screenplay really brings out the complexity of these characters while also establishing the suburban locale and the people live there in a way that feels natural. The incredible cast he’s put together around the central duo helps, especially having Robert De Niro playing Pat’s father, a man with just as bad a temper (Although we can say that it’s where Pat got it from) and Jacki Weaver is the perfect antithesis, handling every situation with a sweet smile and the voice of reason. One can easily say that Russell has a great handle on directing out-of-control family arguments, (I wonder why that might be?) and we get a lot of great family blow-ups between the three of them. Watching both Weaver and De Niro was a warm delight. Especially, Robert De Niro as it was hard to remember the last time De Niro was this effortlessly endearing and relaxed onscreen.
The humor goes well beyond Pat’s family, though, and actor John Ortiz, who ably loses himself into many a character role, makes the most of his part playing Pat’s best friend Ronnie, almost stealing the movie with some very funny monologues about his own marriage woes. On the other hand, Anupam Kher as Dr. Cliff Patel does his job convincingly although before the start of the movie, Anupam Kher had said how difficult it was for him to play the role as he thinks in Hindi and while shooting for this film he used to translate every dialog in Hindi in his head so that he could understand the character and the importance of the scene, but one cannot figure that out from his performance. It won’t be wrong to say that this is by far the most convincing Anupam Kher acting in a Hollywood film.
Another surprise in the film is the Rush Hour fame Chris Tucker as Danny. He makes a rare but effective appearance as Pat’s best mental-ward buddy.
Overall, with great pacing, a great sense of the moment and some of the most entertaining one-liners you won’t be disappointed with the film; there’s much to like about Silver Linings Playbook.
Ratings: * * * */5