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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Silver Linings Playbook - Review (2012)

When it comes to romantic comedies you can usually predict the majority of the plot just by looking at the movie poster.   Full of complex, interesting characters, family drama, emotion and unique approach to storytelling, Silver Linings Playbook is a breath of fresh air in a stale genre.  A film that is much more than a movie poster.

The story centers around Pat (Bradley Cooper), a young man that has just finished an eight month treatment for a bi-polar disorder, that hopes improving himself will be enough to repair his damaged relationship with his wife.  His caring mother (Jacki Weaver) cautiously brings him home to get him back on his feet.  His father (Robert DeNiro), a die-hard Philadelphia sports fan with some OCD tendencies, seems more interested in having his good luck charm back to help ensure a Philly victory.  During a hilarious dinner with his friend he meets (Jennifer Lawrence) a widow with dealing with her own set of issue, namely depression.  From the minute they are on screen together the chemistry is undeniable.  From that point on the film focuses on their unorthodox relationships as they unknowingly lean on each other to work through their problems. 

And the film is full of problems, problems based in reality, which is part of its draw.  We are not given the typical rom-com full of perfectly colorful, quirky characters, in a mystical Hollywood made world where everything works out in the end and we all learn a wonderful lesson just before the latest Kenny Loggins tune plays over the credits.  Behind the walls of the home of this all-American home there is family that is dealing with adversity, one that fights, that has made mistakes and doesn't always have the answers.  Not only are none of the characters perfect, most are flawed and at first difficult to embrace.  Each one comes with their own list of shortcomings - they are not bad people, they just take patience to understand.  Instead of caricatures we get characters.  Pretty early on you get the feeling that no matter what the outcome of the film it is not going to be resolved perfectly with a bow on it.  David O. Russell exposes these less than attractive parts of family life and balances it with comedy and romance, the film's greatest feat.

As I mentioned there is magic on screen between Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence.  They both provide award worthy performances, taking two characters I would hesitate about inviting into my home and turning them into two characters for with whom you empathize.  DeNiro has one of his best performances in years - not one of his typical straight off the rack characters.  Welcome back, Bobby.   Jacki Weaver, is not given as showy of a part, but delivers on what she has - there were a couple of times her acting with her eyes choked me up.  And the surprise statement of the young year, Chris Tucker even does well, delivering (for him) a restrained performance - not gunning for laughs, therefore he earning some.  This is one of the better ensambles casts of the year, helping me to connect to characters that could easily have been repellant.

At times, caught up in the whimsy of what is unfolding on screen I may have been a little to eager to overlook some flaws, including a predictable (but likable third act.)  The film, like its characters, has its flaws.  But, isn't that why we go to the movies, to escape the real world and for an hour or two, find the silver lining in life and embrace it?  I did just that, ran with it and had a great time doing so.

9 out of 10

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