TCFF Day 7: Review of ‘Silver Linings Playbook’

There has been quite a lot of buzz around this movie, so I’m thrilled that it’s showing at TCFF about a month before its wide release! As I’ve mentioned on this post, this movie has won the coveted People’s Choice Award at TIFF and there’s been some Oscar buzz on Jennifer Lawrence’s performance, deservedly so.

This dramedy is written and directed by David O. Russell, his first film since his Oscar-nominated The Fighter, adapted from a novel of the same name by Matthew Quick. Instead of his usual muse Mark Wahlberg, we’ve got Bradley Cooper as former teacher Pat Solitano, who’s coming home from an 8-month stint at a mental institution and moving back with his parents. He refuses to take his medication, which no doubts creates some issues for his parents, such as waking them up in the wee hours complaining about the bleak plot of an Ernest Hemingway book, amongst others. Pat’s bipolar meltdowns are done in a delicate mix of pathos and hilarity that makes you laugh as well as sympathize for him. He still pines for his wife Nikki who has left him after he nearly beat her lover to death when he found them making love in the shower.

At home, things aren’t so simple for Pat either, especially in regards to his dad’s obsessions with the Philadelphia Eagles and how the extremely superstitious Pat Sr. thinks his son brings good luck if he watches the game with him. I tell you, I think he’s perhaps more of a nutjob that his son! But all Pat wants to do is reconcile with Nikki. One of the ways to get to her is through Nikki’s friend Veronica (nice to see Julia Stiles again albeit in a small role), and during dinner, he ends up meeting Veronica’s sister Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a mysterious girl who’s recently lost her husband in a car accident. Life takes an unexpected turn for both Pat and Tiffany, who initially has their own agenda for befriending each other. It’s apparent that they’re drawn to each other and the loss of their spouses makes them able to relate to one another more than they otherwise would, even if on the surface they bicker like cats and dogs.

The eccentric family dynamics remind me of those in The Fighter, Russell has a keen eye to frame these kinds of scenes and he’s also got the skill to get the best from his actors. The Solitanos are played by thespians Robert De Niro and Aussie Jacki Weaver, who nabbed an Oscar nomination for Animal Kingdom a few years back. The scenes between all three of them are mostly comical, though there are times where it got very intense during Pat’s mental breakdown. There’s also a hugely heart-wrenching scene between DeNiro and Cooper that showcase one of De Niro’s best performances in years.

The stars of the film are definitely Cooper and Lawrence here, especially the latter. I have to admit I’m not usually fond of pretty boy Cooper, but he’s made up to look very plain here and shows that he’s got some dramatic chops. He’s certainly come a long way from his TV days in Alias. I’ve always loved Lawrence, and her scene-stealing turn here makes me like her tenfold in this movie. Her screen charisma is undeniable, at only 22 she has the maturity and panache of an actress twice her age. The supporting cast is excellent all around, Julia Stiles, John Ortiz, and Anupam Kher as Pat’s therapist are all wonderful in their roles. There’s also Chris Tucker, who made a come back of sort as his last movie Rush Hour 3 was 5 years ago. He’s still the comic relief but though he still talks pretty fast, his role is a bit different from the typical irritating wisecracks we often see him play.

This is definitely a comedy with a heart, the laugh-out-loud parts are well-balanced with the some profoundly moving scenes. The dancing parts are a lot of fun to watch as well, that was a pleasant surprise for me as I had no idea it was integral to the plot. What I like most is the theme of finding a ‘silver lining’ no matter how dire you life is, it’s an uplifting message that any of us could relate to in one way or another.

I agree with my TCFF blogger friend June that this one is a ‘dark comedy with true heart strings.’ It’s nice that an all-star cast actually delivers, I think fans of any of the actors here won’t be disappointed. Silver Linings Playbook definitely lives up to the hype, easily one of the highlights of TCFF for me so far.

4.5 out of 5 reels

Also check out June’s review of MN Shorts: The Darker Side

Thoughts on this film and/or any of the actors?

38 thoughts on “TCFF Day 7: Review of ‘Silver Linings Playbook’

  1. Ted S.

    “showcase one of De Niro’s best performances in years” I may see this movie just for that, LOL. It’s been a while since De Niro “act” in any of his recent films, I think the last film where he looked like he cared about acting was Heat and that was almost 20 years ago. Also, I’m a fan Jennifer Lawrence so I’ll give it a rent.

    Good job on covering the festival Ruth, even though I’m not there, I feel like I’ve been to it with all your posts. I don’t think I will make it this weekend, I’m up to my eyeballs with work since I’ve been sick all week.

    1. Ahah yeah, I think a lot of people think that way about DeNiro, which is too bad really. He’s good here though I still think Lawrence is the star of the film for me.

      I’m so sorry you haven’t been able to come to the film fest Ted, hope you’re feeling better now. I’m so exhausted now for coming home late several days in a row and blogging.

  2. Excellent review Ruth and like Ted, I’ll be catching this primarily for DeNiro. However, I really like David O. Russell’s previous films so this one is quite appealing all round.

  3. I’m so excited to see this! I always knew that Bradley Cooper had some dramatic chops. I’m most excited to see Jennifer Lawrence and Jacki Weaver, though!

    1. Hi Stevee, yes both Lawrence and Weaver are both excellent. I think Cooper proves that he could indeed act, I think I’ve warmed up a bit to him after this film.

  4. Like you, I was pleased to see Stiles back on screen after seeing the trailer recently. I’m also a fan of Weaver. I really, really dislike Chris Tucker though but it sounds like they have his nonsense reined in some. Great review! It solidifies my excitement to see it. I was going to see it anyway. I’ve been and Jennifer Lawrence fan since Winters Bone. She’s fantastic.

    1. I’m thrilled to see Stiles acting in 2 films at TCFF. I don’t like Tucker either but he’s actually not bad here and his character is quite sympathetic. Lawrence is fantastic though, you’ll love her even more after this.

  5. Great review! i really enjoyed The Fighter and I’m fond of Cooper when he is doing good job, I even liked him in Alias. Will be great to see Deniro in good performance too!

    1. I enjoyed The Fighter very much, and Three Kings was pretty good as well which is also by O. Russell. If you’re fond of Cooper then you certainly won’t be disappointed by him here, Sati.

  6. Even without seeing your high rating, I’d say this is the movie I look forward to the most amongst the ones you’ve covered at TCFF. Its also fortunate that its the only one opening in the near future where I live.

  7. PrairieGirl

    Well, here I am, the oddball again… I don’t really follow any of these actors, but I like relationships stories and dramedy’s, so with such a high rating from Flixy, this will go on my list.

  8. Bummed I couldn’t attend the screening. Glad you really enjoyed this movie, Ruth. It’s rare that a comedy actually delivers on all levels and I’m even more excited to check it out next month when it hits theaters!

    1. I’m sorry you couldn’t see it Cas, I was going to give you a free ticket if you didn’t have to work 😦 Ah well, hope you don’t have to work so much next year, man.

  9. DAMN IT! So pissed that I missed this one. After reading your review and checking out the trailer a few more times I’m going to assume that this one will hit me similar to how his last film (The Fighter) did. It looked decent from the trailers, but not that intriguing or something I’d consider best of the year material, despite the solid cast. Yet after I watched The Fighter I completely fell in love with it because of its laugh-out-loud laughs and authentic family drama.

    1. Bummer man, ah well hopefully it’ll get released at the indie theaters or even the bigger ones soon. I like this more than The Fighter as I generally don’t like boxing movies, but yeah, the family dynamics are great. It provides some big laughs like in The Fighter but it’s also quite moving. O. Russell has a knack for filming such scenes and the cast is phenomenal! If you like Lawrence then you’ll love her even more in this one.

      1. I actually haven’t been impressed with a single thing Lawrence has been in, with Winter’s Bone being a complete drag, Hunger Games a shallow and boring experience and House at the End being just another PG-13 attempted horror film.

        I am however really looking forward to seeing her work with a filmmaker like O. Russell, because he knows how to cast roles and get the needed performances. He made Mark Wahlberg tolerable in The Fighter 🙂

        1. I actually haven’t seen Winter’s Bone yet but I really like Lawrence in Like Crazy, X-Men: First Class and Hunger Games.

          Yep, that’s what I like about Russell, and he certainly did so with this film.

            1. She only has a supporting part in Like Crazy but a memorable one. I like Mystique in First Class, though my fave characters are obviously Magneto and Xavier!

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