November 21, 2012

Review: Taking A Page from the 'Silver Linings Playbook'

Silver Linings Playbook proves to be a very unconventional comedy about mental illness, family, and loss. Writer/director David O. Russell (The Fighter) returns to his black comedy roots, assembling an impressive cast as he elevates the standard yet emotional drama on screen for an artful, cinematic twist on the romantic comedy adapted on Matthew Quick's novel.

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence play a pair of damaged Phillies in the city of brotherly love. Lawrence plays older as a sexually aggressive young widow. She once again proves her strong acting chops despite her almost distracting natural beauty. Her playfulness in the face of sadness and struggle provide a strange combination of upbeat behaviour and gentle sorrow. She is imminently watchable. Cooper manages a thoughtful, honest, raw performance with a manic but sympathetic quality. The pair have a natural chemistry and explore dark, disturbing topics with humour and genuine charm.

Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver (as Cooper's parents), and Chris Tucker (who's mostly wasted) fill out the house of dysfunction surrounding Cooper. The film is aimless in parts and veers from family drama to dancing and football hysteria. If not for the stellar cast, beautiful photography, and mostly smart direction, Silver Linings Playbook could easily become lost in its own messiness. There's not much of a through line except for Cooper's hopeless mission to win back his estranged wife.

Russell juggles the different character dynamics well yet the material seems light and a tad beneath the talented roster of actors and filmmakers. I kept wanting to see everyone collaborate in a better scripted, more substantive film.

Full of fine performances and scenes filled with thoughtful drama, Silver Linings Playbook never reaches very high. Anchored by Cooper and Lawrence's great performances added to some wacky interplay, the film is fun and light despite delving into heavy themes and dark material. It's worth watching but fades from memory quickly without any lasting ideas.

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