Friday, February 1, 2013

Review: Silver Linings Playbook

The worst thing about living in Australia at this time of year (apart from the poisonous animals, the oppressive heat, and the inability to go in the ocean due to all the things in there that want to eat you) is watching the coverage of the Golden Globes and other such award shows, and having no idea what half the films up for ‘Best Movie’ are. By the time they eventually trickle into our cinemas, the rest of the world has moved on and genuinely doesn't give a crap what we think about ‘Django Unchained’, ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ and ‘Madagascar 36: Still Not In New York’.

Luckily, a late January release for Silver Linings Playbook has kept us somewhat in the loop. The hype for this new Bradley Cooper/Jennifer Lawrence flick had been building not only through the awards season machine, but also through the far more reliable word of mouth avenue. I wasn't that floored by the trailer, but I do like a bit of Bradley Cooper, so I decided to check it out.

Join me below the cut for the verdict.

Based on the 2008 debut novel by Matthew Quick, Silver Linings Playbook follows the story of Pat Solitano, beginning as he moves back in with his parents after a stint at a mental institution. He is desperate to reconcile with his estranged wife who (understandably) left him after he found her in the shower with another man and then proceeded to beat the unlucky fella half to death. Setting out to ‘remake himself’ with help from his kooky friends and family, he meets the recently widowed Tiffany and the two broken souls engage in their own form of therapy.

While at its core Silver Linings is a romantic comedy, to label it as such is to over-simplify a wonderfully layered story. The supporting characters are just as interesting as the leads, with Robert DeNiro’s obsessive-compulsive, Philly Eagles fanatic father fixated with superstition and lucky charms easily able to have filled two hours with his own story. Every character is damaged in their own way, and watching how each individual deals with that is a secondary but still rewarding element to the narrative. I have no experience with the mental illnesses highlighted by the movie, so I'm not really the best person to decide if it was handled ‘well’ or not, but it seemed very respectful and any jokes that were made were intended to laugh with the sufferer, and not at them.

Now, let’s take a second to talk about Jennifer Lawrence. Jennifer. Goddamn. Lawrence. I was surprised to learn after watching this movie that she’s only 22, because she is utterly ridiculous in all the best ways possible. The really tricky thing with this script is the fact it teeters on the line between drama and comedy, and as such was going to need a special cast to make sure it was delivered faithfully. Not only does Lawrence hit this one out of the park, she goes and chases the ball down so she can fire it out of a cannon. Not to take anything away from Bradley Cooper, as he does a fantastic job as well with Pat’s bipolar mood swings (affable to ferocious in a nanosecond), but the maturity of performance that she brought to the role was phenomenal, and her resultant Golden Globe award for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical could not be more deserved. It would be hard to pinpoint her best scene, but one of my favourites had to be her staring down Robert DeNiro and calling his character out on his deluded bullshit. No big deal, 22 years old and letting Robert DeNiro absolutely have it. No big deal. I think I’m a little bit in love with her, and I’m totally cool with that.

Silver Linings Playbook is a wonderful, offbeat tale of two broken people fitting their shattered pieces together to create a beautiful new whole. I didn’t have the highest expectations going in, but I absolutely loved this one and would happily see it again. The message of hope and self-improvement that is threaded through, stemming from Pat’s motto ‘Excelsior!’ and dogged determination to get himself right mentally and physically, is relatable and inspiring. With stirring performances all round, I’d expect this one to be continuing to feature during the 2013 awards.

I give Silver Linings Playbook 4.5 Hemingway novels out of 5


  1. I would like to see this movie. I love both Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence pretty equally, but even more because the locations in the story are all based on places right here in my town / next town over. The writer lived a few blocks from me and I've heard that my local diner is featured prominently in the novel.

    1. Oh cool! There's a big diner scene, would be interesting to see if it's filmed at the same place!

    2. That's really cool! I'll have to see this sooner than later. That diner was my old hangout (and remains many of my friends current hangout), and I've only heard good things about the film.

  2. Silver Linings Playbook looks like your run-of-the-mill wacky family comedy, but it's an important film and a great one that deserves to sweep the awards it's nominated for.

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