Saturday, May 04, 2013


Written and Directed by David O. Russell
Starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro

Pat Solitano: She is my friend with an F.
Danny: Capital F.
Pat Solitano: Yeah, for friend.

The one thing I took away from David O. Russell’s SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK is that you have to deal with the bad in order to get to the good stuff. Always focusing on the silver lining never gives you the opportunity to face your demons and allows them the chance to grow while you’re looking the other way. Russell makes an apt point here as applying this theory to watching this film is really the only way to enjoy it.

There is one other thing I learned while watching this film, that Bradley Cooper has the potential to take on stronger, more dramatic parts. Cooper plays Pat Solitano, whom we meet moments before he exits a mental facility, where he is being treated for bipolar disorder, convincing himself aloud that he’s better now. It is never really clear to either of his fantastically fussy parents, played by Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver, whether he truly is any better but they take him in regardless. Meanwhile, it never needs to be made clear to Pat’s new friend, Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), because she is often just as messed up as he is. Together they learn to heal each other ... through amateur dance?

Considering how visceral Russell went last time out with his Oscar-nominated work on THE FIGHTER, I am genuinely surprised by how tame SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK is. A fantastic ensemble elevates Russell’s screenplay, with moments both touching and amusing, but never to the point where it breaks free of its more conventional trappings. But when you weigh the film’s faults against it’s own silver linings, its still worth the experience.


It is time for me to admit that when I first saw SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, I let my expectations get in the way of my enjoyment of the film. I've now had the chance to see it twice more since that initial screening, once again in theatres and once in my living room, and I think I might finally be getting what everyone else is. When the film won the prestigious People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, I was genuinely surprised. Months later though, the only shock I have left is at my own initial disbelief that it had won. Yes, it is a crowd pleaser, but it is also a very real and relatable story that is not often told on screen. The more I see it, the more I cannot help but fall in love with it and want to see it again and again. You can almost ignore everything I wrote about it initially (all the bad stuff, that is). SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK is simply one of the best and one of the most endearing romantic comedies of all time.

I always enjoyed the charm this film exudes, which is of course thanks to its fantastic ensemble cast. As previously mentioned, this is the first time I've seen Bradley Cooper show signs of depth and growth. It is also the first time I've seen Robert De Niro truly bring his best in nearly 20 years. While I initially dismissed Jacki Weaver's performance as too minute to matter, I now see that she is the glue that holds this family together and how close she is to coming completely apart. And of course, there is Jennifer Lawrence. Of the film's 8 Oscar nominations, hers for Best Actress, is the only award the film won. Given the competition, it was the only award it had a decent shot of taking, but if it was going to win anything, I'm glad to see it was this one. Lawrence has repeatedly said in interviews that she never felt like she was playing someone with mental issues, but rather a woman who just lived her life honestly and more openly direct than other people. By not reducing her to a set of quirks and bouts of depression, she was able to craft an incredibly fierce and brave female lead, a rarity if there ever was on in this genre.

What I said then ... "A fantastic ensemble elevates Russell’s screenplay, with moments both touching and amusing, but never to the point where it breaks free of its more conventional trappings."

And now? Well, clearly I was wrong. I've admitted as much already. Yes, it follows a conventional path, but it does so in such an unconventional way without ever sacrificing its romantic comedy roots or its characters' intentions. In fact, it honours convention while subverting it in the most subtle of fashions. Watch Pat and Tiffany's interactions again and you will see that every scene they have together furthers their relationship and bond without either one of them fully realizing it.

Cooper and Lawrence with director, Russell
Special Features: The Blu-Ray features are fairly standard fare but while we're going behind the scenes, we are privy to how much love there seemed to be involved in making SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK. My initial disappointment with the picture was rooted in my expectations of writer/director, David O. Russell. This is his follow-up to THE FIGHTER, and I wanted it to be more raw but now I know the reality he drew from to form this world. His own son has been dealing with mental issues and mood swings for years now. Russell wanted to make this film to show his son, and people who find themselves in similar situations, that there is in fact a possibility of a silver lining, even for those who feel that their issues may keep them from ever feeling a connection with another person.

You can also learn Pat and Tiffany's entire dance routine, as taught to you by choreographer, Mandy Moore. How awesome is that?!

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK is available to rent or own now. Review copy provided by eOne Entertainment.

And now for something I rarely do, I am revising the film's grade to ...

And don't miss my oh so brief push for the film on CJAD 800 ...

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