Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook

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  1. Bradley Cooper. Robert De Niro. Chris Tucker. Jennifer Lawrence. Does that sound like the cast of an independent film? I didn’t think so. But Silver Linings Playbook is at least independent enough to screen at the Independent Spirit Awards. Their definition of “indie” is clearly a bit subjective, but Silver Linings Playbook fit and garnered 5 nominations in 2013.  It was also nominated for 8 Oscars but only took home the statue for Lead Actress (Jennifer Lawrence).

    According to an article in the LA Times, one of the reasons Silver Linings Playbook is considered more “indie” than other movies with this caliber of talent is because of its relatively modest budget of 21 million dollars (which, after tax breaks and other things, fits the “under 20 million” rule at the Independent Spirit Awards). The other reason is because of its “uniqueness of vision.” And that’s what makes it great. It’s quirky, funny, and emotionally gripping, but it’s also refreshingly different from the usual rom-com faire (if you consider this a rom-com… which it only sort of is).

    It does (kind of) follow the rom-com conventions of a meet cute, growth of the relationship, tear that relationship down, then hope they get together at the end. But it’s so much more than that and (best of all) you can’t predict the ending… probably. I couldn’t, at least.

    Bradley Cooper is at his best in this film as the emotionally unstable guy, Pat, trying to rebuild his life after a trip to “the looney bin.” Emotionally unstable is hard to play… and this is the guy from The Hangover. He kills it, though. Then, of course, there’s the juggernaut that is Robert De Niro. He is Pat’s sports loving, highly superstitious, gambling-addicted father. He is also a bit emotionally unstable as he is given to outbursts of anger. This isn’t the caliber of performance De Niro has in Taxi Driver, but it’s strong, nonetheless. Trying to hold his own on screen with these two is funny man Chris Tucker, who hadn’t appeared in a film since Rush Hour 3… five long years earlier.  Maybe the time off did him some good because he does very well in this film. His role isn’t major, but he provides some good laughs and stays out of the way for the bigger players.

    The most outstanding things about this film have everything to do with Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence). Not only does Lawrence put on a show that Cooper and Tucker could learn from… but De Niro could even learn a thing or two. She’s unbelievably good in Silver Linings Playbook. It helps that her character is superbly crafted, giving her a lot to work with; but I can’t even describe everything she is able to do in this film (including dance her heart out) – she’s just that good. The only problem I have with the film also has to do with Tiffany, though. I am left to come up with my own ideas about her motivation in the film. I get it with the other characters. They have personal motivations that lead them to do things and change them based on other characters. I have my guesses with Tiffany, but it’s not clear what motivates her or what she gets out of everything that goes on.

    Overall, this film is outstanding. It looks great, the acting is superb, the story is funny while still tugging at your heartstrings, and the characters are surprisingly well-developed. Silver Linings Playbook also gave me a once in a lifetime (so far) experience:  at one point in the film, the entire theater erupted in applause. Not at the final credits as if to collectively say “good film.” I mean outright, full-on applause complete with cheering. And it’s not like one person started it, slow-clap style. It was spontaneous and powerful… amazing. Never had I seen that happen in the middle (well, near the end) of a film before.  And, of course, I joined in.

    Nolan’s Grade:  A+

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