Friday, November 30, 2012

Review: Silver Linings Playbook

David O. Russell is turning into one of the best dialogue directors in Hollywood.  What I mean by this is that he seems to have a knack for both writing and shooting realistic and fresh verbal interactions amongst his characters in his films.  Going to a screening of an Russell film you know you're going to get straight grounded dialogue that draws you into the movie.  Russell's last effort was The Fighter in 2010 which ended up being my second favorite film of that year.  Silver Linings Playbook picks up right where The Fighter left off by showing us another slice of tough suburban family life featuring a totally committed and talented cast.  As a bonus, Russell adds in one of the best depictions on screen of what it's like to be a rabid American sports fan.

Bradley Cooper stars as Pat Solitano, a bi-polar son of an Eagles-loving family in the suburbs of Philadelphia.  Pat has just been released from a mental institution after having witnessed a shocking episode with his adulterous wife.  As he tries to re-acclimate into society and win back the love of his estranged wife, he meets a beautiful young widow named Tiffany played by the uber-talented Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss from The Hunger Games).  A solid supporting cast featuring Robert De Niro (in one of his more realistic roles in recent memory as Pat's football-and-gambling-loving father) helps round out the acting acumen and allows Russell to do his thing.

As Pat tries to win back his ex he ends up becoming involved with Tiffany (who has a similar type of social disorder as Pat does).  The drama of Pat trying to beat his illness and help Tiffany get over the death of her former husband is brilliantly set against the real-life sports scene of 2008 in Philadelphia.  We get to witness a whole town get behind the Eagles playoff run (as well as a Phillies World Series appearance).  The fandom is shown in full force within the Solitano household as hopes and dreams live and die with each Eagles game.  Pat's dad continues to encourage him to watch games together but a fateful trip to an accurately-depicted Eagles tailgating becomes one of the major catalysts of the fim.  Russell is able to weave a multitude of comical moments through genuine scenes of drama and true-to-life scenes of what it actually feels like to whole-heartedly follow your local sports team.

Cooper gives his best performance as an actor to-date by a long shot.  He comes across as likable, human and genuine as we see his flaws play out time and time again.  Thankfully we get all of the comic timing he brings to his roles in Wedding Crashers and The Hangover mixed in with some major dramatic acting chops.  His chemistry with Lawrence is spot-on and Jennifer once again gives a performance that is years beyond her young age of 22.  I can see both of these actors getting Oscar nods next year and Lawrence really has all of Hollywood ahead of her.  She has the most potential of any actress working today.

What Russell, Cooper and Lawrence have created with Silver Linings Playbook is one of the funnier movies of 2012 and one of the best "rom-coms" I've ever seen.  Simply put this is acting, directing and writing at an extremely high level and Playbook earns my fourth 5 out of 5 JR rating for this year.  While you can probably wait for video on this (this movie does NOT NEED to be seen on the big screen) I would still recommend going to see it before awards season comes around.  Especially if you are even a casual sports fan.

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