Sunday, January 6, 2013
Silver Linings Playbook (Theatrical Review)
Comedy, Drama, Romance, 122 minutes
Directed by David O. Russell
Starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, and Chris Tucker
What kind of romantic comedy do you prefer? Classics, such as It Happened One Night, Pretty Woman and Roman Holiday, or something quirky, like Annie Hall or Harold and Maude? Silver Linings Playbook has more drama present than most romantic comedies, but it still belongs in that category. It would also be classified as somewhat quirky.
Mental illness isn't funny, but I don't think that any subject should be off limits when it comes to comedy. The key is doing it with respect and a degree of realism. For example, cancer is one of the most unpleasant things in existence, but 50/50 was a comedy that worked, because the screenplay allowed us to see some of the seriousness of the situation. Silver Linings Playbook follows the same path.
If you have ever seen As Good as It Gets, you might have some idea what to expect from Silver Linings Playbook. Both films feature incredibly good actors, who are capable of mixing drama with comedy. Both include serious scenes that an average actor might struggle with. The two stories revolve around unlikely romances, that shouldn't work, but it feels right when they do.
Jennifer Lawrence has to be one of Hollywood's hottest properties. She received an Oscar nomination for Winter's Bone, and has reached huge audiences by appearing in X-Men: First Class, and The Hunger Games. I'm sure a lot of people saw Silver Linings Playbook just because Lawrence was involved. She's certainly attractive, but she can really act too. This role requires more than just a pretty face, and she pulls it off with apparent ease.
The setting reminds me of Russell's last film, The Fighter; it's gritty and realistic, and full of dramatic scenes. Families often become involved in shouting matches rather than sitting down to have rational conversations. Two actors won Oscars in that film, and I wouldn't be surprised to see another nomination go to Lawrence for her work here.
The story focuses on Pat Solitano (Cooper), who we see being released from a mental institution. He is married, and has plans to reconnect with his wife. He is friendly and calm most of the time, but can sometimes snap. One trigger is a song, and sometimes he hears it in his head when it's not even playing. Pat moves in with his mother (Jacki Weaver) and father (De Niro), and walks into their bedroom at 3am for insignificant reasons. His judgment is not exactly reliable.
Pat's life begins to change when he meets Tiffany (Lawrence), who is the sister-in-law of one of his friends. She's direct and irrational at times, and it soon becomes clear that she has problems of her own. The two enter into a sort of alliance and become friends. Tiffany agrees to give a letter to Pat's wife if he'll train with her and enter a dance contest that she wants to be a part of.
De Niro is funny in almost every scene in which he appears. He plays a Philadelphia Eagles fan, and he's convinced that his actions, and the actions of those around him, have an effect on the team's results. One of the best scenes in the film occurs when Tiffany confronts him about his superstitions.
Chris Tucker is also funny in all of his scenes. He was a fellow patient at the mental institution and seems to care about what happens to Pat.
Another huge plus is the soundtrack. Led Zeppelin finally allowed songs to be used in movies and ads, and the placing of What Is and What Should Never Be is particularly effective. You'll also hear The White Stripes, Alabama Shakes, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, Stevie Wonder, and the Eagles of Death Metal. It's one of the best soundtracks of 2012.
I won't ruin the outcome, but it's fun to see Pat and Tiffany work through their problems. It's good to see a film avoid the usual romantic comedy formula and come up with some original ideas. Comedy works best when it surprises you, rather than something which tries to make you laugh with every action or line of dialogue. It's well-written and well-acted, with a number of memorable scenes. Catch it while it's still in theaters if you can.
Overall score 4.5/5 (After several viewings, I have upgraded my rating to 5/5).
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