I am definitely late to the party getting to see David O. Russell’s latest film to hit theaters, Silver Linings Playbook. Russell’s success with The Fighter has shown his ability to draw the best performances possible out of his actors to tell a complex and character driven story. If after watching The Fighter you thought they had some family issues, wait until you see Silver Linings Playbook. Even though the family is considerably smaller that does not mean the problems are any less. What Russell again manages to do is really make these characters relatable even if you would not fin yourself having too much in common with them. If I had to make a comparison it is like Benny & Joon meets Little Miss Sunshine.
A brief introduction to the plot of Silver Linings Playbook is as follows: Against the judgments of the doctors, the court allows Dolores (Jacki Weaver) to take her bipolar son, Pat (Bradley Cooper), back home from a psychological institute much to the surprise of her gambling addicted, obsessive compulsive/superstitious husband Pat Sr. (Robert DeNiro). Determined to win back his wife who has a restraining order against him due too his emotional and violent outburst that sent him the the institute, Pat read up on her favorite books and reconnect with their friends. In the process he meets a widowed young, Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), and the two develop an unconventional friendship to help the other get to where the other wants to be. Click here for the trailer.
I cannot praise Russell’s talent for a great narrative and character development enough. The first half of this movie is heavily devoted to developing the characters to set up the events of the second half of the movie where most of the plot happens. Not going to lie the first half had me wondering “what have I gotten myself into” because there is just a lot of yelling over other people yelling which nearly gave me a headache but luckily it never reaches that point. A lot of the characters are headstrong and set in there ways. Pat Sr. believes in a set order to things to get the best possible outcome, Pat wants to change things about himself to optimize his chancing of getting his wife back, Dolores wants things to be like they used to where everyone she cares about coexisted, and Tiffany wants comfort/positive attention to cope with the loss of her husband.
Being a character driven movie, this movie is only as good as its actors and their performances were flawless. To this point we all knew the talents of Lawrence, DeNiro, and Weaver so I will not go too into detail about them but I must say Bradley Cooper and Chris Tucker proved a lot in this movie. Until now I only thought Cooper had a limited range with the in comedies and some action/thrillers but Silver Linings Playbook proved not only that he is a capable leading man but that he can give characters depth with different levels of emotion. As for Tucker, one I am glad to see him in a movie again and two he took a role we had not seen him play before. Yes he was a comedic supporting role, which is nothing new, but I thought he did a fantastic job of making his character kind of deceitful yet sincerely kind at the same time.
My only trouble with the movie is how it looks and feels. The camera work was very unusual. The close ups were too frequent. I do not mind when filmmakers do close ups from the neck to the top of people’s heads but I cannot stand chin to eyebrow. That is way closer than I need to be especially during screaming matches between Pat and Tiffany. Then the way the camera would move back and forth between bantering characters (even if they were right across the table from each other) felt messy to me and at times disorienting. This is as oppose to the way Tarantino usually does it of a wide-angle shot and letting the actors work or cut from actor to actor instead of moving the camera side to side. I know that’s picky but I am not a fan of that sort of camera work.
Overall, Silver Linings Playbook well deserves of all the attention its director and actors are receiving. It is a roller coaster of feelings so real that you forget you are watching a movie at times. I give Silver Linings Playbook an 8/10.