- Film Rating -

REVIEW: “SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK”

| 11/30/2012 | 0 Comments

It is truly hard to make a fizzy romantic comedy.  The chemistry has to be spot-on, the dialogue sharp, and the circumstances need to be either completely believable or outrageously fantastical to get a passing grade anymore.  It’s even harder when you’re a world-class filmmaker like David O. Russell, who clearly wants to breathe new life into every film he makes, and who had the idea to infuse said fizzy tone with an acidic undertaste. In doing so, he has given us something fresh, a quirky, spectacularly-acted, soul-stirring, hilarious romantic comedy with a fiercely beating heart.

The feel of this film is deceptively small and indie.  It looks like it was shot really fast, because the pacing is so breakneck, the shots mostly handheld, and the effort so off-the-cuff.  Trust me, as a filmmaker myself, it takes great skill to make something look so effortless.

A bi-polar love story, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK tells the tale of Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper), who is recently released from a mental hospital and trying to build his life back together.  Back living with his OCD father (Robert De Niro) and mother (Jacki Weaver, Academy-nominated powerhouse from ANIMAL KINGDOM, but unfortunately given very little to do here), Pat struggles to keep his life under control, most of which entails obeying a restraining order from his wife while building a new relationship with Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), another damaged soul who constantly spars with him while helping him win his wife back and teaching him a ballroom dance routine for a competition.  Don’t ask.  With that plot point and another regarding the Philadelphia Eagles, there’s so much going on here and some of it is a tad predictable.

It doesn’t matter, because what really makes this film rise above whatever conventions it adheres to, is the script and the indelible performances.  Here is a screenplay that pays careful attention to the real quirks and rhythms of human interactions.  It feels as urgent and as alive as Bradley Cooper’s character.  There’s an anxious, forward-moving drive to the script.  It’s always zinging, always energetic.  There isn’t a lazy moment in this entire film.  Our leads are always running in this film, which is an apt metaphor for the driving force on display.

You’ll find yourself rooting for everyone while simultaneously looking slack-jawed at the craziness on display.  There are spectacular eruptions of emotion here that rival that classic Amy Adams porch fight in his previous classic, THE FIGHTER.  One set piece involves a date in a diner that builds and builds and builds until the cross purposes of our two leads reaches an impasse and then explodes.  It’s a master class of great screenwriting in one beautifully contained scene.  And what can I say about that ending but “Swoon”?  Ok, I’ll say a couple more words.  It made me laugh, cry, and truly feel something.

Now onto those performances.  Bradley Cooper jumps to a whole new level with what I think is his career-best performance to date.  I truly enjoyed what he did in LIMITLESS, but his Pat is something else entirely.  There’s no other way to describe what he does here except to say it’s explosive, urgent, and deeply felt.  You can’t help but sympathize with this guy who can’t control his behavior.  You just want him to work it out.  Jennifer Lawrence has been wowing the world right out of the gate with her performance in WINTER’S BONE.  There’s such focus and strength in her work, but her Tiffany is ferocious in a way we haven’t seen from her before.  This is a brave, way out there, and she nails every single second of her screen time.  Her chemistry with Cooper is electric, and she doesn’t shy away from going full force against one of the best actors alive, De Niro, in a showstopper scene that I predict will win her the Oscar.  Nothing else I’ve seen so far this year can touch what she does in this film.  She has been consistently fantastic in her short career so far, but this puts her right up there with the best of the best.

Speaking of De Niro, he’s been phoning it in for quite some time, largely because he hasn’t worked with  Scorsese since CASINO in 1995, and because great roles are rare, especially for actors his age.  With Pat. Sr., De Niro seems fully engaged, terrifically alive, and a perfect father/son match with Cooper.  The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree here, and I loved their connection.  I wish Julia Stiles and Chris Tucker were given more to do, as they also have submerged themselves fully into their characters.

Sure, the final act falls into typical rom-com chess pieces being moved about, and the outcome is always obvious, but the getting there is so spectacular.  I think it’s obvious that I loved loved loved love LOVED this movie.  In a film world where 3D, costumed period pieces and CGI animation get everybody all excited, I think it’s time we take a hard look at what an accomplishment it is to put real human emotions on the screen.  SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK is an instant classic.

Glenn Gaylord is an award-winning Writer/Director/Producer and graduate of the UCLA School of Film and Television.

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