Film Review: Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook is an interesting spin on the romantic comedy that keeps its feet firmly grounded before giving into some of that genre’s conventions in the final act.

Pat has been in a mental institution do to an unknown criminal activity, but after eight months he is being released into the wild a new man. Positive, driven and apparently a hell of a lot skinnier, Pat has one mission in life and that is to reconnect with his estranged wife after he was sent away.  As Pat slowly reintegrates with society, out of his parents attic, he meets another “damaged” soul in Tiffany and the two form an unlikely relationship as they both battle their own issues.

David O. Russell directs this film and there is a lived in and grounded feel to this film that is similar to his last effort The Fighter and it tries to capture that same family element as well.  Pat’s family is a bit more functional in this film, but as Pat and Tiffany’s relationship grows the tension among them becomes higher.  Plot wise there isn’t a lot going on as the film is more of a character study of our to aforementioned leads and thankfully Russell and his stars, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, have no problem creating a pair of likable and compelling individuals.  The first two thirds of the film or so work pretty great as we get to know these two and the relationship they form is odd, sometimes hostile and often funny.  What starts as a twisted romance turns into a need for one another’s services and as the two grow closer you will find yourself being taken in by them. Then Russell had to go and make things get complicated.

The film takes a pretty big left turn late in the game as they throw the inevitable third act wrench into the relationship and they then have to twist and contort the plot to become interlocked with Pat’s Dad’s gambling sub-plot and things become very convoluted in a hurry.  There is an extended scene in particular that puts everyone in the same room and while the actors are turning in some great work they are forced to spout all of this exposition and try to desperately re-route the path of the film into something it has previously been not.  Everything about this dramatic tonal twist is so forced and tacked on (as is all of The Eagles football stuff) that it almost ruins everything that came before it.  The last few scenes of the movie feel like they are from an entirely different film then the one we have been watching for the last hour or so and it took me all the way to the big finale to really get back into the picture.  The big scene I mentioned above isn’t where the head smacking stopped either as the third act has a couple more conventions shoved into it for good measure with the only saving grace being I care about Pat and Tiffany enough to pull me in for their big moment.

Acting wise, there is far less to complain about as Bradley Cooper delivers his best work to date. Neurotic and, appropriately, a little crazy is how he plays things and there is rawness to his performance that we haven’t seen from him.  He’s funny, intense and full realized as Pat and he works wonderfully off his co-star Lawrence.  Lawrence is having quite the breakout year no matter what you think of The Hunger Games and she continues to deliver the great work we have come to expect from her here. She is vulnerable yet a firecracker of a personality that you can never tell where she is going to be coming from.  Lawrence’s Tiffany has a rough past behind her and we feel it affect all of her decisions as she tries to move on and Lawrence keeps the character grounded when she could easily go way over the top.  Chris Tucker also has a comeback role of sorts and he is as funny as he ever has been in his brief moments he pops up in the film.  Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro star as Pat’s parents and the both are a good as you would expect them to be in an unfortunately underserviced part of the story.  Weaver in particular caught me off guard as she is so gentle and sweet here and I most recently despised her character in Animal Kingdom.  Shea Whigham, John Ortiz and Julia Stiles also are all quite good in their brief appearances in the film, though I wish Ortiz and Stiles relationship wasn’t such a stereotypical source for humor and jabs throughout the whole film.

Silver Linings Playbook is an often excellent character study that gets lost in what kind of film it wants to be.  The acting is great, the film stays mostly grounded and it is full of a lot of genuinely earned humor.  The final act of the film turns into an almost entirely different kind of movie and while it executes this shift fairly well it is jarring none the less.  I would have preferred to see what Russell would have done if he would have just stuck with the film he was making, but we are left with a crowd pleasing finale that feels a bit untrue compared to where we started.

Silver Linings Playbook is a B

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