Friday, May 10, 2013

Review: "Silver Linings Playbook" is Golden

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 32 (of 2013) by Leroy Douresseaux

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Running time: 122 minutes (2 hours, 2 minutes)
MPAA – R for language and some sexual content/nudity
DIRECTOR: David O. Russell
WRITERS: David O. Russell (based on the novel The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick)
PRODUCERS: Bruce Cohen, Donna Gigliotti, and Jonathan Gordon
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Masanobu Takayanagi (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers
COMPOSER: Danny Elfman
Academy Award winner


Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker, Anupam Kher, John Ortiz, Shea Whigham, Julia Stiles, Paul Herman, Dash Mihok, Cheryl Williams, Patrick McDade, and Brea Bee

Silver Linings Playbook is a 2012 romantic comedy-drama from writer-director, David O. Russell. The film is based on The Silver Linings Playbook, the 2008 debut novel of American author Matthew Quick. Silver Linings Playbook the film focuses on a man who returns home from a mental institution, hoping to reconcile with his wife, but befriends a young woman with serious mental issues of her own.

Silver Linings Playbook has two distinctions. It received Oscar nominations in the “Big Five” categories: best picture, director, actor, actress, and screenplay (either original or adapted). It also received Oscar nominations in all four acting categories, the first film to do so since 1981. Besides the Oscars, Silver Linings Playbook was critically acclaimed and also won or was nominated by numerous film award organizations. Plus, it was a surprise box office success. I call it one of the very best films of 2012, and I have to admit this. Silver Linings Playbook made me feel as if my heart were soaring into the clouds, and it even made me shed tears. What a damn good movie.

Silver Linings Playbook opens in 2008 at the Karel Psychiatric Facility in Baltimore, Maryland. Former high school teacher, Pat Solitano, Jr. (Bradley Cooper), is about to be released after an eight-month stay. Homeless and jobless, he has to move in with his parents, Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro) and Dolores (Jacki Weaver), while he continues his treatment for bipolar disorder. Pat Sr., however, has his own issues, mostly built around his fanatical love for the professional football team, the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL and his insistence that Pat Jr. is some kind of good luck charm for the Eagles.

Pat is determined to reunite and reconcile with his wife, Nikki (Brea Bee), but she has a restraining order against him. Pat does reunite with a few friends, which is how he meets Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence), a young policeman’s widow, who is also on medication for depression. Tiffany aggressively pursues Pat and coerces him in order to get her way, but she might be the woman to change his life – his silver lining.

Silver Linings Playbook is one of the films in which a strong guiding hand is evident, in this case, writer-director David O. Russell. He treads carefully. On one hand, this film is about mental illness; on the other, it is a love story. Russell has to keep this movie from becoming a well-meaning, disease-of-the-week, television movie, bogged down by talk of medicine and symptoms. He also had to avoid the clich├ęs that turn romance movies into cloying, maudlin melodramas, which is often the fate of movies about mismatched or star-crossed lovers.

Russell does this by writing a script in which the characters stay stubbornly true to who they are while building relationships with each other. As a director, Russell painstakingly guides the intricate connections necessary to make this character drama into a film that feels honest and authentic, rather than dishonest and contrived. This movie is not so much about connections as it is about accepting the “crazy” in each other, as the way to strengthen bonds. Russell does an outstanding job in getting the necessary performances from his cast that make Silver Linings Playbook not only succeed, but also it a great movie.

And what fantastic performances they are. Robert De Niro gives his best performance in years, probably the most heartfelt and layered since Awakenings (1990). Jacki Weaver is poignant and funny in a subtle performance full of color and delicate shades. Chris Tucker’s performance as Danny McDaniels (Pat’s friend whom he met while both were institutionalized) is sweet; that is the best way I can think to describe it. Russell makes the best use of Tucker’s innate foolishness in short bursts.

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence give career best performances in Silver Linings Playbook. Lawrence is so talented, and she’s just of burst of freshness and sunshine in the movies in which she appears. In fact, her first appearance in this movie is literally a burst out of nowhere, and instantly, Silver Linings Playbook is the better for it. Lawrence is mesmerizing, and it is easy to see why she captivated enough Oscar voters to win a best actress Academy Award for the role of Tiffany Maxwell.

Bradley Cooper, however, is Silver Linings Playbook’s rock. As Pat Solitano, Jr., Cooper brilliant portrays that at the heart of Solitano’s mania is a closed-up part of him. He takes the audience on a journey in which Pat finally opens up to new possibilities. Cooper is mesmerizing. I couldn’t help but follow the movie because I was enthralled by his performance. Where is Bradley’s Oscar?

Silver Linings Playbook is a special film, full of humor and love. Its foray into our individual mental issues is a journey that our minds and hearts need to experience. It is a great movie, and I want to see it again.

10 of 10

2013 Academy Awards: 1 win: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” (Jennifer Lawrence); 7 nominations: “Best Motion Picture of the Year” (Donna Gigliotti, Bruce Cohen, and Jonathan Gordon), “Best Achievement in Directing” (David O. Russell), “Best Achievement in Editing” (Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role” (Bradley Cooper), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Robert De Niro), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role” (Jacki Weaver), and “Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published” (David O. Russell)

2013 BAFTA Awards: 1 win: “Best Adapted Screenplay” (David O. Russell); 2 nominations: “Best Leading Actor” (Bradley Cooper) and “Best Leading Actress” (Jennifer Lawrence)

2013 Golden Globes, USA: 1 win: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” (Jennifer Lawrence); 3 nominations: Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy,” “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” (Bradley Cooper), and “Best Screenplay - Motion Picture” (David O. Russell)

Friday, May 10, 2013

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