Golden moments in this Silver
“Silver Linings Playbook” follows in the footsteps of recent offbeat comedy-drama films like “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Juno,” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” earning critical raves and Oscar nominations and giving audiences who want something other than the typical Hollywood formula a script they can sink their teeth into. It’s not for everyone, but the point of a film that aspires to the spirit of independent filmmaking is to plow its own road, regardless whether it earns $50 or $100 million. (Though truth told, any filmmaker would prefer the latter.)
But what makes “Silver Linings Playbook” a cut above is the deft treatment of its delicate subject material and some remarkable performances that give the film both touching, raw, authentic emotion and a certain kinetic humor. Only occasionally do certain choices feel forced, and despite a brief lapse into contrivance near the end, “Playbook” is one the year’s most memorable films.
The continually improving Bradley Cooper plays Pat, whom we first meet as he’s being released from a court ordered mental health facility. He still has to deal with his bipolar disorder, but now with a positive attitude even if he’s still in denial about patching things up with his estranged wife. Prone to go off, especially when he hears a certain Stevie Wonder song, he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), an appealing young lady who is dealing with her own issues, including sexual deviance after the death of her husband.
Cooper and Lawrence—despite a 16-year age difference—are magic together, providing neurotic characters that are vulnerable and eminently likeable. The film exudes a prickly energy, especially at the home of Pat’s parents, his uber-obsessive Philadelphia Eagles fan father (Robert DeNiro, his best work in years) and on-the-verge-of-breakdown-at-any-moment mother (Jacki Weaver). All four leads earned Oscar nominations; only Weaver’s feels somewhat unjustified.
With “Silver Linings Playbook,” mercurial director and screenwriter David O. Russell (known to have tumultuous relationships with his actors) officially arrives as one of the industry’s most gifted filmmakers. His best films, “Three Kings,” “The Fighter,” and now “Silver Linings Playbook” (we’ll forgive the existential misfire “I Heart Huckabees”) show an ability to mine the depths of proven actors stretching them to new lengths.
“Playbook” devolves into a formula near the end that the rest of the film seems to argue against—notably in scenes involving a parlay bet and a dance competition—but these don’t make the rest of the film any less effective.
“Silver Linings Playbook” is a romantic comedy for those who don’t like romantic comedies, but still want a happy, smiley ending.
Rated “R” for language and some sexual content/nudity.