Movie review: 'Silver Linings Playbook' - 4 stars
Silver Linings Playbook
Directed by David O. Russell
Starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver
The characters in "Silver Linings Playbook," the new film from David O. Russell, are people we're all familiar with. They're our next-door neighbors and friends, living in a recognizable Northeast setting, and they have the hopes, dreams and expectations that define American life in the new millennium.
That's an impressive achievement when so many movie personalities come across as the cardboard constructs of one-dimensional screenwriters. It's even more awesome when you consider the extent to which the threat of caricature looms throughout the movie: Protagonist Pat (Bradley Cooper) has recently been released from a mental hospital and his counterpart Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) is a dysfunctional widow.
Russell ("The Fighter") is too sharp a filmmaker to fall into any sort of trap, though, and his actors are too gifted. So they've collectively produced one of the year's best films, a rewarding blend of smart comedy and subtle drama that is fully of this world, with a keen grasp of the intricacies of relationships and the ways we cope with life's tough blows.
Pat is brought to live with mom (Jacki Weaver) and dad (Robert De Niro) in their suburban Philadelphia home after a lengthy hospitalization. Hyperactive, obsessive and off his meds, he simultaneously drives his parents crazy and attempts to get back together with his wife, though she won't see him for reasons that are quickly made clear. At the same time, he can't shake neighbor Tiffany, who has decided that they're meant to be friends.
A simple plot summary can't do the film justice, of course. Russell's work is about what happens between the lines, both in revealing silences and frenzied, cacophonic verbal eruptions. It's about flawed people reaching out for meaningful connections in the only ways they can, trying to process a new normal, going on amid abiding sadness.
"Silver Linings Playbook" is an intimate work that's rendered with visual aplomb. Russell combines a naturalistic eye for the look and feel of a comfortable middle-class existence with the broad, off-kilter sense that things are about to combust, to descend into chaos. The film is at once heartfelt and funny, farcical and sincere, and packed with performances that pull off that difficult balancing act. In short, it's a masterpiece.