Only a year after releasing the Academy Award-winning drama The Fighter, David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook is already receiving Oscar buzz. While he doesn't stray from the drama genre, there's a comedic element mixed into this adaptation of the novel by Matthew Quick. With an interesting premise, the feature premiered at multiple festivals and received primarily positive feedback. When a motion picture is spoken of so highly after an entire festival, moviegoers who haven't seen it ask an important question: Is it really as good as people keep saying it is? While it isn't absolute perfection, this is a well-crafted piece of filmmaking that will satisfy moviegoers.
Pat Solatano (Bradley Cooper) has lost everything after being released from a mental institution. His wife has a restraining order against him, he can't return to his job, and doesn't have his own house anymore. Pat finds himself moving in with his mother (Jacki Weaver) and father (Robert De Niro) and hopes to begin rebuilding his life. His parents want him to get back on track, but it's a rocky road. Pat ultimately meets a girl named Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who is a mysterious girl with immense issues of her own. She agrees to deliver a letter to Pat's wife for him as long as he trains and participates in a dancing competition with Tiffany. When an unexpected bond forms, the silver linings appear in both of their lives.
Silver Linings Playbook touches upon some dark subject matter, as The Fighter did. However, this time around it's centered around mental illness, love, and pain. While the two latter themes are utilized extraordinarily well, this movie takes a more mainstream approach to mental illness. With David O. Russell's potential in mind, I can't help but feel that he could have searched deeper. I waited the entire film for an emotional punch, but it never came. Regardless, the characters still manage to pull audiences in. Throughout the running time, you'll find yourself really wanting everything to work out for Pat and Tiffany. There are many lines of dialogue between the two roles that are absolutely phenomenal and make for some truly memorable scenes. This is a dramatic movie, but it intertwines comedy quite well. While some of the jokes come across as forced, the rest are funny and suitable. There are far too many dramedies out there that have awkward tonal shifts, but Silver Linings Playbook is smooth and consistent. The exact same thing can be said about the pacing. The plot keeps moving forward without ever becoming dull. Even with the great pacing, the clichés of the genre stick out.
While this movie may have dark underpinnings, the structure is similar to stereotypical dramedies. All of the major plot points are extremely predictable. It would have been nice to change the formula around a little bit, but David O. Russell is still able to deliver a well-written screenplay. The richness of the two main characters is one of the picture's biggest strengths. Pat and Tiffany come across as very genuine, as they're flawed, stressed, and emotional. It can be very difficult to recreate such human characteristics on screen, yet this dramedy is able to deliver them with flying colors. One of the messages Silver Linings Playbook successfully communicates is that everybody has his or her own issues, but it's all about how you control and channel your emotions. This screenplay is strong, but it has its problems. Regardless, audiences will leave feeling satisfied.
Not only does this feature have an excellent writer/director, but it also has an all-star cast. Bradley Cooper plays Pat surprisingly well. He hasn't been deemed to be a very serious actor, which is why this didn't sound like a particularly good decision. However, Cooper manages to bring an unexpected amount of heart to the character. Jennifer Lawrence delivers an incredibly powerful performance as Tiffany. She's an excellent young actress who deserves to be in the Oscar race again. This character is very different from anything else she has done, yet she comes across as being incredibly convincing. Believe all of the positive buzz that's been spread about her performance. There are even some warming supporting roles to be found in this film, such as Robert De Niro as Pat's father and Jacki Weaver as Pat's mother. The entire cast does a great job with these characters under Russell's direction.
This dramedy may follow a familiar structure, but it's done very well. Writer/director David O. Russell has made a great follow-up film to his previous successful feature. His newest motion picture is filled with great characters and a good story, which is all supported by a fantastic cast. Bradley Cooper delivers the best performance of his career and Jennifer Lawrence is tremendous as Tiffany. Regardless of its shortcomings, I truly enjoyed the film. Silver Linings Playbook is an inspired and well-crafted film. Highly recommended.