'Silver Linings Playbook' (2012) Movie Review

Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook
Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook
Photo: The Weinstein Co.
NOTE: This review first appeared on this site on September 9, 2012 after I saw it at the Toronto Film Festival. I am reprinting it here as it hits theaters this weekend.

Thank you David O. Russell. Thank you for making a film that realizes a world with real emotions while at the same time acknowledging we don't have to always wade through shit and wallow in despair to explore it. Thank you for Silver Linings Playbook, a film that does deal in cliches but doesn't shy from tough subjects.

I'm not saying a film has to be uplifting to be good and those that are depressing are bad. Recent films such as Amour and Shame prove otherwise. I do, however, need more than sad lives and empty existence to keep me emotionally invested. Give me deeper characters not defined solely by their morose predicaments. Give me love, give me character, give me ambition. Silver Linings Playbook wears its heart on its sleeve and its characters will earn your compassion based on who they are, not the situations they find themselves in. In short, it's excellent.

Silver Linings Playbook
Grade: A+

Silver Linings Playbook"Silver Linings Playbook" is a The Weinstein Co. release, directed by David O. Russell and is rated R for language and some sexual content/nudity. The running time is .

The cast includes Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Tucker, Jacki Weaver, Julia Stiles, John Ortiz and Shea Whigham.

Based on Matthew Quick's debut novel of the same name, the key to this film's success is the balance of honest, real-deal humor alongside the ups and downs of the characters. Silver Linings Playbook is just as funny as it is emotional and both aspects hit home with authenticity, despite what are several obvious turns in the film's plot. We're not watching a groundbreaking movie as much as we're watching one with a soul. A connection is made with the characters that can't be faked and in today's films too often is.

Bradley Cooper stars as Pat Solitano and we first meet him after an eight month, court-ordered stay in a state institution. His mother (Jacki Weaver) picks him up and is taking him home. Refreshed, renewed, but still bearing plenty of rough edges due to the incident that landed him where he was, Pat is determined to turn his life around and repair his broken marriage... that is if his wife, who has a restraining order against him, is willing to give him a chance.

Pat's journey to self-betterment is encouraged by his parents, with his mother there for support and his Philadelphia Eagles-obsessed father (Robert De Niro) looking at him as a good luck charm as much as he does a son, sitting home each Sunday, banned from the Eagles' stadium for life for fighting. To say the two were cut from the same cloth would be to state the obvious.

A twist in Pat's path arrives in the form of Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), sister to the wife of one of Pat's friends and a girl with troubles of her own. Before the two meet the film already has a tight hold over the audience, but once their friendship begins to take shape there is no letting go.

Bradley Cooper is best known for his smart ass comedic roles, but with The Place Beyond the Pines and now Silver Linings he's clearly turning the corner and this is the best he's been. You feel his rage, joy and frustration as he deals with his bi-polar disorder. Certain things trigger repressed emotions and feelings he'd rather forget, but when he's with Tiffany things begin to melt away as both are dealing with their own pains and begin finding comfort in one another.

Lawrence has already earned an Oscar nomination for her performance in 2010's Winter's Bone, but the question remained as to where her career would go from there. Roles in X-Men: First Class and The Hunger Games didn't elevate her status as much as they served as blockbuster studio fare to pad the bank account before the next meaty role came along for her to sink her teeth into. It's here and Lawrence is a knock out in Silver Linings and the stand out of the picture. Tiffany is a damaged soul looking for anyone to love and appreciate her and, despite her past, she's willing to continually put her heart on the line to find what her heart needs.

In supporting roles, Jacki Weaver is fantastic and this is the best I've seen from De Niro in more years than I care to count. Chris Tucker plays a friend of Pat's from the institution and is a welcomed inclusion in a role that benefits from the actor's charisma, contributing far more than rudimentary comedic relief. John Ortiz, Julia Stiles and Anupam Kher also bring their own special touches to their characters that help bring a freshness to each scene as it builds and builds to a climax you will probably see coming, but your heart will be racing nevertheless.

After all the emotions Silver Linings takes you through -- the highs and lows -- it's greatest aspect beyond performances, direction and any other kudos I could throw at it, is that while cliche and occasionally predictable, it never loses sight of reality.

In the midst of it all a character says, "The world will break your heart 10 ways 'til Sunday," but this is said as a fact, not as an excuse. The characters in Silver Linings Playbook are fully aware life can drown you in shit every day of the week, but they refuse to let that realization get them down. This is a life lesson we could all benefit from.


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  • Susan

    Nice review Brad. I liked the movie a lot too, but some of the narrative elements, particularly in the final act, came off as a bit mawkish to me.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      I really liked the final act, but feel it's a segment of the story that will be dividing people.

  • MajorFilmFan

    I can't wait to see this movie, because I love Jennifer Lawrence. She has an undeniable charm about her, and she's one of the best young actresses working today. I'm sad my local theater won't get it until Christmas, but it'll be worth it.

  • MajorFilmFan

    Excelent review, Brad. I honestly can't wait to see this movie. I absolutely ADORE Jennifer Lawrence. She has this undeniable charm and charisma, and it shows. She's one of the best actresses working today. I'm sad my local theater won't be getting it until Christmas, but it'll be worth the wait.

  • MajorFilmFan

    Brad, a lot of critics and experts are feeling that this will win Best Picture at this year's Oscars. Where do you stand?

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/HarryFuertes/ Harry Fuertes

    Well, as you all know, I loved this movie. Not an A+, but a solid A and my favorite movie this year so far. Everybody should go see it.

  • M.

    Great review, Brad. I loved this film.....it stayed with me long after I left the theater and I'll be seeing it again this coming week, can't wait!. Jennifer Lawrence is spectacular, just heartbreakingly beautiful. Everyone nailed their roles as well as the look and feel
    of Philly (my hometown). An awesome film.

  • Marcelle Saporta

    Agree with your assessment. A heart warming movie profoundly human and non-judgemental. The performances are powerful and despite some hopeful anticipation it keeps you at the edge of your seat rooting for this not so 'odd couple.'

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/chewbaca38/ Baca

    Saw it today. Great stuff. Although it may have fallen into some genre trappings (of a genre I don't even consider it a part of) in the third act, it performed them masterfully.

  • http://hypethemovies.wordpress.com Jordan B.

    I was able to see this last night with a bunch of friends to celebrate my birthday. My, what a film!

  • Newbourne

    Just saw it for the first time last night. It was a great movie and probably my favorite romantic comedy of all time. I know people are shying away from calling it that, but it's definitely a romantic comedy with the same themes and formula. What differentiates it from the other romantic comedies is that the others follow a simple schematic and don't add much to it while Russell decided to actually develop his characters and make a pretty good movie. Future romantic comedies should follow Russell's example. Just because it's a romantic comedy doesn't mean it has to suck.

  • http://www.moviejit.com Jose

    Pat: The world will break your heart ten ways to Sunday. That’s guaranteed. I can’t begin to explain that. Or the craziness inside myself and everyone else. But guess what? Sunday’s my favorite day again. I think of what everyone did for me, and I feel like a very lucky guy.