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?

Chat-worthy actor: Mark Wahlberg

Ok, this is an unusual one. I got inspired to write this post because for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why this one photo I used to accompany a news posting about Entourage gets sooo many clicks! I’m just baffled how it gets sooo much traffic, and he’s not even shirtless! 🙂

I figure it’s kinda timely to feature him today for two reasons: Date Night was number one at the box office this past weekend — where Wahlberg and his six-pack guest-starred — and a trailer of his new action-comedy The Other Guys has just been just released (see below), it actually looks like fun!

I must say I’m impressed by Wahlberg’s career longevity and what a Hollywood’s powerhouse he’s become. I’ve known about the Boston-bred actor since his Marky Mark days when I was a 15 year-old going nuts over New Kids on the Block [wince] … I know, I know, but what choices/decisions of your teenage years don’t leave you scratching your head in hindsight, right? Anyway, I can’t say I was much of a fan of Mark’s music but as an actor, however, he’s actually quite watchable. I’m not exactly sure what’s the first movie of him I saw, it might’ve been Three Kings, and I thought, “he’s not the best actor out there, but this guy’s got charisma.” That’s how I felt about him when I saw The Italian Job, too, in fact, perhaps that very reason is what makes Wahlberg one of those critics-proof actors. No matter how critically-panned his movies are (i.e. The Happening, Max Payne), he’ll always come out unscathed.

Wahlberg in The Departed

I just found out about this recently — as I didn’t even know he was in that movie — but the former Calvin Klein underwear model was nominated for Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in The Departed. Working for Scorsese must be considered a career highlight for any actor, let alone being recognized for it, especially among a cast that include Jack Nicholson, Alec Baldwin, Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon. Then there’s the smashing success of Entourage that he executive-produced, the HBO show which premise is loosely based on his own experiences as an up-and-coming film star. According to the man himself, the movie version is currently in the works.

Wahlberg & Bale in The Fighter

Right now he’s starring on a boxing biopic with Christian Bale called The Fighter, reuniting him with the temperamental director David O’Russell whom he worked with on Three Kings. According to SlashFilm, the film tells the story of Dicky Eklund (Bale), a real life boxer-turned-trainer who rebounded after a run of drugs and crime. Shepherded his half-brother “Irish” Micky Ward (Wahlberg), Dicky had a Rocky-like rise to the world lightweight championship. Ward fought throughout the mid-’80s and ’90s, but he’s best remembered for three battles with Arturo Gotti, two of which went down as the greatest in the history of the sport. One reader of Slash Film had the pleasure of seeing the flick on advance screening and said that it’s “… a movie to be reckoned with in 2010” and went on to praise the story, pacing, as well as the performances (mostly for Bale – oh, I sure hope the Brit will FINALLY nab an Oscar nomination, it’s darn well overdue!).

The Mickey Ward role looks like it’s tailor-made for Wahlberg, and I don’t just mean that physically. I’m looking forward to see him share the screen with Bale, one of my all-time fave actors. That movie certainly earns a spot in my inevitable Top Ten Most Anticipated 2011 Flix list!

Anyway, here’s The Other Guys trailer with Wahlberg and Will Ferrell:

I’m not a huge Will Ferrell fan, but him and Wahlberg as buddy cops actually looks pretty darn funny, maybe ’cause I don’t expect such pairing. But Sam Jackson and the Rock totally kick ass!