Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 9.1/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 10/10 (Full Score)

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (2012) - David O. Russell

There exists a dysfunction in all of us. For a broken family that is living their lives in a dark tunnel, there is always an optimism for the light. Every cloud has a silver lining. However, to find this silver lining, one must have determination, collaboration, motivation, inspiration, and heart. Once we get back on our feet, we notice how lucky we are to have all the support and help around us, and that is the very moving power of David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook.

The film revolves around Pat (Bradley Cooper), a man suffering from bipolar disorder who is just released from a mental hospital and under a restraining order from his wife. Strangely, he is confident and buoyant to repair the damage he has done in the past. With his newfound motto, "Excelsior!" Pat is determined to impress his friends and his family that he is ready to move onward, but most importantly, upward. Assuring his caring mother and Philadelphia Eagles fan father (Robert de Niro and Jacki Weaver) that he is doing well, Pat sets out to rebuild his marriage. Along the way, he runs into Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a jobless young widow with a sex addiction.

Silver Linings Playbook is sharply directed. With brisk pacing and fluent editing to assist its transitions, the film comes forth knowing exactly what it needs to do for its audience. This knowledge is mostly thanks to David O. Russell, a skillfully observing director and a magnificent writer, comparable to Quentin Tarantino's screenwriting. Though the cinematography is not so special around here, it is indeed smart enough to know when to take long single takes. As mentioned before several times, the camera is a character and it needs to observe. The more one cuts shots, the more the actors' performances are cut as well. With long single takes, the film provides an organic realism to every single performance, truly bringing the story to life. For a film like Russell's Silver Linings Playbook, the performances are what really make the film sparkle with passion.

Bradley Cooper is probably one of the biggest surprises for an actor I have ever seen. I never knew there exists so much heart in his performance. Cooper portrays a man who refuses to take his meds, yet his behavior inevitably tells us that he is still not ready. He is a flawed man, yet he possesses the willpower to fix himself as well as everyone else affected by him. However, his position when he returns home is a bad one. Though his mother holds the patience and the concerns, his father too often carries a disconnection, where father and son simply cannot bond. Soon enough, we relate to Cooper's inner contradictions and we believe that within his dark days, he will eventually find a silver lining.

Recent winner of the Golden Globe, mesmerizing Jennifer Lawrence delivers once again in this romantic comedy drama. For an actress who did not receive attention until Winter's Bone and The Hunger Games, Lawrence has pulled off one of the best performances in her young career. Unlike Pat's parents, who constantly find trouble to understand him, Lawrence's Tiffany understands him quickly, mainly because she is dysfunctional herself. Quickly and efficiently, the film builds a peculiar but attractive chemistry between the two leads. As the plot escalates and the stakes are raised, the narrative swiftly converts to the classic screwball comedy formula, lighthearted but sentimental.

One of the most convincing types of actors in a film are elders, age 70 and above. But it is exceptionally rare to see elder actors paint something so expressively emotional, whether it is meant to break your heart or touch your heart. Among those masterful people, I never expected Robert de Niro to come back to his golden years. Heartfelt and greatly energetic, de Niro brings about the intense Eagles fan who pities himself that he is missing out time with his son. With his familiar voice and spirited lines of dialogue, Robert de Niro is indeed worthy of an Oscar nomination. In fact, the last time he was nominated for an Oscar was in 1991. Underneath the chemistry between Cooper and Lawrence, the chemistry between Cooper and de Niro is naturalistic and very much alive. With fantastic dialogue and control, David O. Russell's screenplay co-exists with the actors as the film progresses.

Nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, Silver Linings Playbook is phenomenally written. From beginning to end, it tells a man's story and his journey from being down on his luck to finally finding himself. Even with so much complexity within the narrative, Russell's writing gracefully walks across a tricky tightrope like a circus star. Instead of other failing dramas that use cliche montages to build characterization, Silver Linings Playbook does its genre the greatest justice by feeding its screenplay with spirit and the passion of realist dramas. On a technical basis, the script cleverly overlaps dialogue and performances. Embracing a soul that I have only seen in films like It's A Wonderful LifeSilver Linings Playbook applauds its own characters by developing each personality, then finally combining them together to form one marriage of a heart, originally suffering from a disorder, but now cured and never more exuberant.

In conclusion, Silver Lining Playbook is engaging, touching, and inspiring at the same time, probably one of the most ingeniously made films in recent years. To quote Roger Ebert, the film is "so good, it could almost be a terrific old classic." Amazingly performed by Cooper, Lawrence, and de Niro, David O. Russell's modern masterpiece is tender, entertaining, stirring, and most of all, moving. It is films like these that remind us why a family's bond is some of the world's most dazzling forces. And finally, it is films like Silver Linings Playbook that remind us why chemistries among people can be some of the most touching and gratifying beauties in life.

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