Silver Linings Playbook (2012) The Weinstein Company/Comedy-Drama RT: 122 minutes Rated R (language, nudity, sexual content) Director: David O. Russell Screenplay: David O. Russell Music: Danny Elfman Cinematography: Masanobu Takayanagi Release date: November 21, 2012 (US) Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker, Anupam Kher, John Ortiz, Shea Whigham, Julia Stiles, Paul Herman, Dash Mihok, Matthew Russell, Cheryl Williams, Patrick McDade, Brea Bree.
Rarely does a film like Silver Linings Playbook come along; it’s so perfect in every way that you don’t want to see it end. In the spirit of full disclosure, I should mention that it was filmed in my lifelong stomping grounds (Delaware County and parts of Philadelphia) and there may be just a hint of bias involved in my love for this comedy/drama that centers on the relationship between two damaged people. Several scenes were shot in Upper Darby, PA; my friend and I immediately recognized Madison Ave. (where the main character lives), Archbishop Prendergrast High School, the local Y, the Llanarch Diner, the Lansdowne Theater, Ridley Creek State Park and Lincoln Financial Field (home of the Philadelphia Eagles). These locations won’t mean anything to most of you, but my fellow area natives will definitely love that Silver Linings Playbook makes great use of each and every one of them. Who cares if the filmmakers don’t have the exact geography correct? I’ll bet that anybody can say the same thing about movies filmed in their neighborhoods. The Philadelphia Eagles play a significant role in the story, but I wouldn’t exactly call this a sports movie since we never see a single moment of gridiron action. I’m not a sports fan myself, but I find my city’s obsession with the local sports teams sort of interesting from a sociological perspective. What does it say about us that we have the only sports stadium in the country with its own courtroom on the premises? In any event, I like Silver Linings Playbook for much more than its affectionate attitude towards my neck of the woods.
It’s at once an entertaining romantic comedy and a moving drama about coping with mental illness. The movie handles this subject in a sensitive manner, but still finds room for a sense of humor about it. Kudos to David O. Russell (Three Kings, The Fighter) for striking the perfect balance.
After spending eight months in a Baltimore psychiatric facility, Pat Solitano Jr. (Cooper, The Hangover) gets released into the custody of his mother (Weaver, Animal Kingdom). Diagnosed with bipolar disorder after an incident involving his wife, he moves back into his parents’ home with the understanding that we will continue with therapy and abide by the restraining order his wife has against him. He doesn’t want to take his medications as they leave him feeling bloated and out of it. Although a bit wary, his father, Pat Sr. (De Niro, Goodfellas), is happy to have him back because he’s sort of a good luck charm when it comes to his beloved Eagles. If they watch the game together, the Eagles will win. Pat Jr. focuses all his energies on winning back his wife even though he’s not allowed within 500 yards of her or his former workplace. He was a substitute history teacher at the local high school where she teaches English. He decides to read every book on her syllabus as a way of showing his new supportive side which leads to a late night meltdown over Ernest Hemmingway’s A Farewell to Arms. He accepts an invitation to dinner at a friend’s house where he meets Tiffany Maxwell (Lawrence, Winter’s Bone), a young woman with severe depression issues. The sudden death of husband caused her to act out in a most inappropriate way and she’s never quite gotten herself back together. It’s not exactly love at first sight for either one of them, but neither one of them can deny that there’s some kind of connection there. He jogs past her house every day and she’s always there to ambush him. He says inappropriate things and she lashes out. Their first date isn’t what any rational person would call successful. However, Pat reluctantly agrees to be her partner in a dance contest in exchange for her helping him get a letter to his estranged wife.
Like I said, everything about Silver Linings Playbook is perfect and the super-talented cast is at the very top of the list. Bradley Cooper turns in the best performance of his career and I can safely say that John Hawkes (The Sessions) now has some fierce competition for this year’s Best Actor Oscar. He has everything down cold pertaining to bipolar disorder- the mannerisms, the manic episodes, the inappropriate comments and behavior, etc. Any actor playing a role like this always runs the risk of overdoing it and exaggerating the character. Look no further than Richard Gere in 1993’s Mr. Jones. Cooper gets it exactly right. Whether showing up for a dinner party in an Eagles jersey or freaking out over a missing wedding video, the character never becomes a joke, an object of pity or a target of ridicule. What a lot of people fail to realize is that any kind of depression is a disease much like diabetes or high blood pressure. It can be kept under control with the proper medication. It doesn’t automatically mean that the person is a dangerous psychopath or a complete basket case. Some people manage to hide mental illness for years, like Pat Sr. whose love for the home team has long since crossed over into obsession. We get the impression early on that there’s something going on with him as he displays OCD-like behavior regarding the TV remotes and the sanctity of his private home office. In what has to be one of the best examples of irony, Pat Sr. is banned from attending games at the stadium due his propensity towards violence against supporters of the opposing teams. Once again, De Niro nails it. Does anybody still doubt that he’s one of the finest actors in the history of American cinema? Silver Linings Playbook should erase each and every one of them. Lawrence can add yet another flawless performance to her ever-growing list. Even though it’s still early in her career, she’s already outdone several actresses who have a few years on her. This girl has natural talent that shines through even in lesser projects like this fall’s House at the End of the Street. I was really impressed with Chris Tucker’s comparatively subdued performance as a friend from the hospital who keeps trying to escape. Yes, I’m talking about that loud mouth from the Rush Hour movies! The same Chris Tucker! It’s also nice to see Julia Stiles (Save the Last Dance) as Tiffany’s perfectionist older sister. Silver Linings Playbook is endearing without being cloying and sympathetic without being condescending. It’s funny, but never in a mean-spirited sort of way. There’s a great scene outside the local football stadium depicting the stereotypical rambunctious Philadelphia sports fans. It goes without saying that I loved seeing familiar places on the big screen. Russell also contributes a tight screenplay that draws the audience into the story and the strange lives of its off-center characters. The world is full of people with issues; I defy anybody to show me one person who’s completely issue-free. Silver Linings Playbook acknowledges this part of real life and it makes for one of the year’s best movies. It’s an absolute must-see and I know that we’ll be hearing a lot about it come awards nomination time. Okay, I’ll say it ….. TOUCHDOWN!!!!