Review No. 409
The Bottom Line: It’s not your everyday romance.
Directed by: David O. Russell
Written by: David O. Russell
Based on: “The Silver Linings Playbook” by Matthew Quick
Patrick “Pat Jr.” Solitano: Bradley Cooper
Tiffany Maxwell: Jennifer Lawrence
Patrizio “Pat Sr.” Solitano: Robert De Niro
Dolores Solitano: Jacki Weaver
Danny: Chris Tucker
Dr. Patel: Anupam Kher
Also Starring: Brea Bee, Dash Mihok, John Ortiz, Julia Stiles, Paul Herman, Shea Whigham
Distributed by the Weinstein Company on November 16, 2012 (limited); November 21, 2012 (expansion); and December 25, 2012 (wide). Produced in English by the United States. Runs 122 mins. Rated R by the MPAA for language and some sexual content/nudity.
Silver Linings Playbook was watched on February 2, 2013.
Pat Jr. (Bradley Cooper): “You have poor social skills. You have a problem.”
Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence): “I have a problem? You say more inappropriate things than appropriate things.”
Silver Linings Playbook is a film that cannot be boiled down to its trailer. In fact, if it could be boiled down to its trailer, it would be the one of the most horrific romantic comedies I’d ever seen. The film was advertised and made to look like a train wreck without an ounce of originality. You could say this is smart marketing. It’s a way of enticing fans of Razzie Award-winning romcoms, into seeing an inevitable Oscar winner. But shouldn’t such films be seen and appreciated by most everyone?
It takes chutzpah to produce an independent movie like Silver Linings. It is a romantic comedy, and a rather unconventional one, in a sense that it depicts a romance in shreds, yet goes into charming depth. But it’s a drama, first and foremost. We open up at a mental facility, where Patrick Solitano (Bradley Cooper) has been placed. Through his eyes, what he did wasn’t even his fault. He has come home from work, one day, to find that his wife–a school principal–is having an affair with a history teacher. He doesn’t see anything wrong with having bloodied the history teacher. Even after being released from the institution, he asserts that he has not the slightest clue why his wife would have moved out.
It’s not until at least a quarter through the film that we are told Pat is bipolar. We’ve known this for much of the time beforehand, the time during which we begin to pity him. Shortly after, Pat meets his sister-in-law, Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), whose husband has recently passed away. To pin the word “romance” on the story is as difficult as for them to pin the word “romance” on their relationship. Each partner is hindered by his or her own words–often speaking anything that comes to mind–as well as trying to move on from past griefs.
Silver Linings is as poignant as it is hysterical. This isn’t the most politically correct comedy, but neither are The Producers, Bananas, or The Gods Must Be Crazy. Come to think of it, those classics are far worse and not nearly as thought-provoking. The chemistry between Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence is a reincarnation of Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan in 1989’s When Harry Met Sally. They don’t have any discussions we’d normally imagine a couple having, even insulting each other, but they end up in a lifelong relationship. Unfortunately, this last mention is where the film messes up slightly. It seems like American cinema’s undefined job to end romances on a holiday and a “life goes on” moment. This would be an acceptable cliché in Silver Linings, had there not been such a rushed (albeit extended) lead-in to what brought the two ultimately together.
Silver Linings Playbook is a rare gem. Sometimes, it is a bit much like 1997’s As Good As It Gets, and it does have as many unforgettable moments as the Crystal/Ryan precursor, often times just as gleefully off-color. There’s a subplot with Robert De Niro as Pat’s superstitious football-obsessed father; during the climactic scenes in which Lawrence whips out a bunch of sports statistics for him, it’s a reminder to Renée Zellweger in Jerry Maguire. It’s not perfect, nor is it every ounce original, but knowing that the romcom genre is a coffin that gets a rusted nail hammered in every other week, I sure hope this unique twist is seen as fodder for inspiration.