Monday, January 21, 2013

FILM REVIEW: Silver Linings Playbook

One of the most unusual movies of the year is David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as two damaged people who are desperately trying to connect emotionally with another person. Cooper plays Pat Solatano, Jr. who at the beginning of the film is seen being released from a mental institution by his mom, Debbie Solatano (played by the veteran Australian actress Jackie Weaver). Pat asks his mom to give a friend named Danny (played by Chris Tucker) that he met during his stay at the mental institution history a ride home but soon we discover that Pat is actually trying to use his mom as an accomplice to help Danny escape! This is just the first sign that something is "not quite right" with Pat.

Soon we have even more evidence that multiple members of the Solatano household are "not quite right" when we meet Pat's Dad, Pat Solatano, Sr (played by 2-time Oscar winner Robert De Niro) who is absolutely obsessed with the Philadelphia Eagles because his primary source of income is acting as a bookie for bets on football. We (the audience) obtain this information because Debbie tells Pat before they enter the house that his dad is doing this and admonishes him not to bring it up when he meets his dad for the first time in 9 months. The first thing Pat does when he walks in the house is mention the bookie thing, causing Pat Senior to remonstrate with his wife for revealing this information. Pat Senior has his own quirks as well, not only does he basically make his living from illegal sports gambling but he also has a curious delusion that if he does certain things it will improve the chances of his team winning. This goes well beyond the typical magical thinking or superstitions of many sports fans because Pat Senior insists that the actions of other people around him can also impact the "luck" his favored team will have.

Pat gets invited to his best friend Ronnie's house for dinner and there he meets a girl named Tiffany Maxwell who is Ronnie's sister-in-law and a recovering sex addict and recent widow. The dinner is a pretty calamitous affair, with Pat and Tiffany each showing off their quirks to this person hey just  met unabashedly. Pat goes to this somewhat dressy occasion wearing a Philadelphia Eagle jersey and demonstrates his obsession/infatuation with his ex-wife Nikki whom he deludedly thinks he is going to get back together with even though she has filed for divorce, moved away, and taken out a restraining order to keep him from getting to within 500 feet of her or contacting her in any way. Tiffany asks Pat about what meds he is taking and they proceed to have a jaw-dropping exchange about 3 or 4 psychoactive medications each has taken and their side effects while Ronnie and his wife look helplessly on. Once this conversation is over Tiffany abruptly gets up from the table and asks Pat to walk her home (even though they are barely into the salad course). While they are walking home she promptly propositions him for sex, which he refuses (because he is being loyal to his "relationship" with Nikki). These actions just reinforce that neither of them really has their self-destructive obsessive behaviors (sex addiction for her, delusion about his ex-wife for him) under control.

I wanted to give a short summary of some of the key events at the beginning of the film to give the reader a sense of how the movie introduces us to the characters and gets us intrigued and invested in their well-being. Even though I described them as "damaged" earlier, one of the key points of the film is that everyone in the film has something "not quite right" about their behavior, but it is only Pat and Tiffany who get the dreaded "crazy" label by everyone around them. But that doesn't mean that they don't have good qualities as well, i.e. a "silver lining."

Through an interesting (albeit somewhat contrived, plot device) Pat and Tiffany end up spending a lot of time together and the audience gets to see how good the two would be for each other long before either of the two characters realize it. The filmmakers can't disguise the fact that Cooper and  Lawrence really are incredibly attractive people, even if they are playing "regular" folks here who have disturbing personalities/behaviors. This fact makes watching the film an enjoyable exercise for people who appreciate male or female beauty (those eyes! that hair!). The main suspense of the film's plot is whether Pat and Tiffany can battle through their mental barriers to actually connect with each other. And by the end of the film, we really really care about what will happen to these characters.

Overall, Silver Linings Playbook is a heart-warming film, with extraordinary acting (the cast has the rare distinction of having Oscar nominations in all four acting categories for Cooper, Lawrence, De Niro and Weaver) and a thought-provoking script that will make you reassess your views about mental illness, the nature of "obsession" and love itself.

Title: Silver Linings Playbook.
Director: David O. Russell.
Running Time: 2 hours, 2 minutes.
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language and some sexual content/nudity.
Release Date: November 21, 2012.
Viewing Date: January 3, 2013.

Writing: A-.
Acting: A.
Visuals: B+.
Impact: A-.

Overall Grade: A (3.66/4.0).

1 comment:

Dan O. said...

Good review Ron. The feel-good movie of the year, so refreshing, captivating and openly anti-pessimistic.


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