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?