Silver Linings Playbook – Touchdown for Jennifer Lawrence
Assuming the world survives the Mayan apocalypse, the year 2012 may be remembered as the “Year of Jennifer Lawrence.” Last March this young actress starred in the incredibly popular film The Hunger Games and followed that up with the short-lived, but still successful, House at the End of the Street. Now after breaking worldwide box-office records, the beautiful Ms. Lawrence has delivered an Oscar worthy performance in Silver Linings Playbook.
Despite her popular appeal in young adult themed films, I haven’t been a big fan of Lawrence; but with her portrayal of Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook, I’m finally convinced there is much more to this talented actress than just the post-apocalyptic “teenybopper” role she is best known for. This girl has got some serious acting chops.
Silver Linings Playbook is set in Philadelphia and indirectly revolves around the city’s National football team, the Philadelphia Eagles. Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) has been released from a mental institution where he has completed eight months of mandatory care after beating a man he caught in the act of having sex with his wife. Having lost everything he had, Pat ends up living with his mother (Jacki Weaver) and father (Robert De Niro) while he continues to recuperate from his breakdown.
Pat’s Dad (Pat Sr.) has lost his pension and is making up for it by running a sports book racket out of his living room and saving his profits in hope of opening a restaurant. De Niro is great as the senior Solitano, who is obsessive compulsive and is obviously where Pat Jr. picked up many of his bipolar tendencies. From remote control table placement to having his son seated perfectly in the chair next to him, everything must be in order for the planets to align and allow a win for their precious Eagles team.
Pat Jr. is mostly concerned with getting his act together so he can rekindle things with his wife Nikki, who has a restraining order out on the man. While trying to devise a way to get back together with his estranged wife, Pat meets Tiffany (Lawrence), his best friend’s wife’s sister. The two are attracted to each other immediately, not only physically, but because they are kindred spirits with skewed mental conditions.
Tiffany is a young widow who has grieved over the loss of her husband by taking solace in the “arms” of strangers – lots of strangers – who she has had multiple sexual liaisons with. Both her and Pat are damaged souls who find platonic comfort in each other. Pat is using Tiffany to try and contact his wife and in return Tiffany is using Pat by forcing him to participate in a dance contest with her.
The dance training turns out to be therapeutic for both Tiffany and Pat, but it is disrupting Pat’s dad’s plans for using his son’s mojo to get the Eagles into the playoffs; and the senior Solitano bets the farm on a final game parlayed with the dance contest in order to get enough money to finally start his restaurant business.
This movie is written and directed by David O. Russell (Three Kings) and is based on the Silver Linings Playbook novel by Matthew Quick. If you think this film sounds like an off-beat football/dance movie mixed with a romantic comedy about mental patients – then I guess you’d be right. The weird thing is that, for the most part, it works – and I’m not particularly fond of football films or dancing movies.
Bradley Cooper (The A-Team) does an impressive job playing a man who desperately wants to be better, but no matter how hard he tries, he is held back by the chemical imbalance in his brain. The movie walks a fine line between making fun of Pat’s mental disorder and taking it seriously, and I think it does a successful job in addressing bipolar disorder without being disrespectful to those who suffer with the disease.
There is a mildly amusing appearance by Chris Tucker (from the Rush Hour movies) in this film and I didn’t really get why. His character serves no plot purpose that I could derive – he just kind of shows up now and then, being Chris Tuckery. The alluring Julia Stiles (from the Bourne movies) also has a small part in this film as Tiffany’s sister, Veronica.
Silver Linings Playbook is an off-kilter romantic comedy that hits more than it misses, but its ultimate “silver-lining” is the fantastic performance by Jennifer Lawrence that is equal parts funny, smart, sexy, charming and heart-breaking. This film has won some awards on the film festival circuit and some circles are talking a best picture nomination at the Academy Awards. While this is a nice movie and I very much recommend it, I don’t think it is at Best Picture level. Lawrence on the other hand is a strong contender for a Best Actress nod. Grade: 7/10