Greetings again from the darkness. The film is exactly what you would expect from a screwball romantic comedy steeped in drama based on bipolar disorder, depression, OCD, Philadelphia Eagles fanatics, a ballroom dancing contest, adultery, Hemingway, and a lead character who jogs while wearing a trash bag. Maybe not exactly what you would expect, but likely much more.
If you were told instead that the story is based on two damaged souls who help heal each other through dancing, you would have every reason to skip this one. However, as written and directed by David O Russell (The Fighter) and based on Matthew Quick‘s novel, this story is a frenetic, emotional roller coaster ride that provides a glimmer of hope for the two damaged lead characters, while reminding that each of us may be a bit off-center in some way. Now add in the best young actress working today (Jennifer Lawrence just turned 22), a rare performance from Robert DeNiro where he seems fully engaged, a pulling back the curtain on Bradley Cooper as much more than a pretty face, and one of the best and most pointed soundtracks in recent history …and you have one of the best films of the year.
What you notice very early on is that what could be considered a trite story line, is instead pounding you with sharp, witty dialogue that pulls no punches in directness. The many aspects of family and emotional support are given time thanks to Pat (Bradley Cooper) being released after 8 months in a mental institution. He was sent there when he snapped after finding his wife in a compromising position with another man. Perfectly understandable if you ask me, but clearly he is the explosive one despite his claims to the contrary. An uncomfortable dinner party introduces him to Tiffany (Ms. Lawrence) whose husband has recently died and her coping skills have been shared with most of those in her workplace. This odd couple spark immediately and the wild ride begins.
Pat’s wife Nikki (Brea Bee) has issued a restraining order and his strategy to win her back consists of a positive attitude and maintaining control of his emotions. His supporters include his mother (Jacki Weaver, who was so great in Animal Kingdom), his OCD father (DeNiro) who so wants to re-connect with his son, his friend (John Ortiz) whose own marriage (to icy Julia Stiles) is a messy mess, his buddy from the asylum (a funny and not over the top Chris Tucker), and of course, Tiffany. The only real problem is that each of these supporters are teetering in their own way – just like Pat.
The brilliance of this movie is the balance struck between the near violent emotional outbursts and the sharp, exacting words spouted by each of the characters. Director Russell once again shows his flair for working class northeasterners. He understands these tough as nails people who wear their emotions on their sleeves. These people are as likely to punch you as hug you … both being acts of love.
The soundtrack deserves special mention. It is very unique and varied, with each song serving an exact purpose. Especially keen are Stevie Wonder’s “My Cherie Amour”, Led Zeppelin’s “What is and What Should Be”, and “The Girl from the North Country” a Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash duet. When the music strikes a harmony with the scene, the movie is all the stronger. Rarely do we get the perfect storm of script, direction, acting, music and relevance.
SEE THIS MOVIE IF: complex relationships between characters facing life’s daily battles carries a certain artistic symmetry for you OR you just want to see acting of the highest quality led by a fabulous Jennifer Lawrence, a resurgent Robert DeNiro and a surprisingly talented Bradley Cooper
SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you prefer your Rom-Com’s to be lightweight and light-hearted for easy laughs
watch the trailer:
There can be little more or better said than what you’ve written about Silver Linings Playbook. I’m glad you did not neglect that part about the music… right on the money, there.
This is the second De Niro – Cooper performance I’ve seen in two years and both have left me more than satisfied. Limitless was pretty awesome. Jennifer Lawrence was splendid in this one; good for her; she makes my old ticker tick.
This is not making the run to the Oscar any easier to pick, let alone predict.
More and more people are “discovering” this movie, which I think is wonderful. It will be a pleasure to watch the career of Jennifer Lawrence. She is a remarkable talent and still so very young. I hope she keeps one foot in the “indie” world.
David – I find it really fun to go and read your reviews AFTER I’ve just seen the movie. I usually don’t read ANY beforehand as I love to form my opinion without knowing too much about what I’m about to see. More often than not , I find myself agreeing with you – and this review was no exception. The best part of your reviews for me are the – Go see this movie if….. In the case of this review this hit it over the head – big time!
Maureen, thanks so much for the nice comments. I share your preference in not reading anything prior to seeing a movie. After I’ve written my comments, I do enjoy reading what others thought – in hopes of picking up some insight or perspective that I might have missed. SLP has split opinions from many viewers. I found it surprisingly complex for one that could also be viewed as a bit simplistic. Good stuff!