Saturday, December 29, 2012

No Need to Find a Silver Lining in Silver Linings Playbook

      Bradley Cooper has gotten a bad wrap, but one that has been earned: with film choices like The Hangover, the dreadful Hangover 2, the nap-inducing action movie The A-Team, and the I-think-I-just-threw-up-in-my-mouth ensemble comedy Valentine's Day, Cooper has proven that he doesn't mind being in throwaway films that have no home on the cinematic landscape. It's surprising, then, that he shines so bright in Silver Linings Playbook--based on the book of the same name by Matthew Quick--a film directed by David O Russell that's real and emotional and full of moments that make you wish more films touched upon this type of exciting terrain.
     Pat (Cooper) is Bipolar, and when we first meet him he's being released from a mental institution (which he was attending for beating someone almost to death, though I won't get into specifics). Pat's changed significantly since he's been locked away: he's lost a bunch of weight, works out a lot, and tries to be much more positive about everything in life--tries to find the silver lining no matter the situation. He has one goal: do absolutely everything in his power to get his wife back; unfortunately, she has a restraining order against him. It's quickly clear that Pat still has some major issues to deal with, particularly when he moves back in with his parents, Pat Sr. (Robert Deniro, in one of his best roles in years) and Dolores (Jacki Weaver, who was so good in that little Australian crime drama, Animal Kingdom). When examining Deniro's character, it's certain that Pat Jr. has inherited some of his dad's traits: Pat Sr. is obsessed with the Philadelphia Eagles (NFL football plays a major role in Silver Linings), and he has an OCD nature in regards to remote control placement and who is sitting where on the sofa when watching the game. He isn't allowed at the stadium anymore--he's beaten up too many fans. 
     In his journey to win back his wife, Pat happens upon Tiffany (the always-transfixing Jennifer Lawrence), a young widow who is dealing with some major emotional issues of her own. Tiffany's a great foil to Pat: she doesn't deal with any of his shit and calls him out when he's clearly in the wrong. Lawrence herself is awesome. If you're looking for her pivotal performance of 2012, put The Hunger Games back on the shelf and look no further than here. She (emotionally) bares all. As they start to build a friendship, it's obvious that Tiffany want's more than just a crazy guy to hang out with. But Pat doesn't want to cheat on his wife, even though he hasn't seen her for almost a year. This tension propels the film into a funny and nerve-wracking final third that involves a huge bet, a dance competition, and the finding of true love.
      But Cooper is the real star in Silver Linings Playbook. His portrayal of Pat is funny and dangerous: this is a man that speaks with "no filter", a man who could go off on a violent tangent at any given moment--a nostalgic song or an Ernest Hemingway book could set him off. He feels real, like a friend or a friend of a friend. David O Russell's direction keeps things moving, too. I remember watching the trailer for this film a few months back: I thought it looked like utter crap with dull jokes and a predictable story. But that couldn't be further from the truth. Like his work in 2010's The Fighter, everything melds together into a wonderful fast-paced story about a man trying to accomplish his goals, whether that be winning a boxing title or winning his wife back.
     There are so many things going on in Silver Linings, yet the sum of every aspect equals one of the best romantic films of the year, a movie that is truly of our time. Like Pat, the film itself is all over the place: at one moment you could be shocked by the things that it says, one moment can bring tears to your eyes and another moment can give you a wide smile from its humor. By the time we get to know these characters and the film is almost over, the outcome may seem like it's going to be predictable. It doesn't especially make a difference, because the journey of watching Silver Linings Playbook--a romantic drama that is one of the best films of the year--surely isn't.      (A-)


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