“Silver Linings Playbook” Review: Much Better Than That Terrible Title


By Wesley Emblidge

Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in “Silver Linings Playbook”

Note: This review has been republished for the wide release of the film. Original article follows.

I always find a film impressive if it can manage to change my mind about something I usually hate. A film like “Punch-Drunk Love” really surprises me because I typically hate Adam Sandler, yet he’s great in it. I don’t really like sports films, but writer/director David O. Russell’s last film, “The Fighter,” was one of my favorites of the year greatly because of his writing. Now, Russell is back with another film that managed to change my opinions on cast members and overall plot elements, and although it’s more uneven than “The Fighter,” it still manages to be an engaging drama full of great performances.

The pitch sounds like a terrible, schmaltzy family melodrama, and it easily could have been. Pat (Bradley Cooper, who I’ve hated up until now) has just been released from an eight-month stay in a mental institution, where he was detained after freaking out over his wife’s infidelity. Pat lives with his parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver) and keeps trying to get over his bipolar issues, but is struggling. He has freakouts in the middle of the night, over the ending of a book he just read or a missing videotape,. Meanwhile, he’s followed around by a kid doing a school report, and a cop making sure he doesn’t go too far out of control. Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), whose husband recently died and also has some serious mental problems. They decide to enter a dance competition, and through practicing for it they bond, and try to overcome their diseases together.

If that sounds awful, don’t worry, it probably should be. However Russell manages the near impossible here, and spins it into a funny, not overly quirky or self-serious movie anchored by two great performances by Cooper and Lawrence. It’s especially surprising that Russell got something this great out of Cooper, a guy who so far has mostly played a jackass, someone you just really feel like punching in the face. He manages to make Pat not just sympathetic, but a believable guy. He never overplays his disease, and always seems a bit on edge. Lawrence might be the best she’s ever been, she’s always great but hasn’t acted on this level since her breakout in “Winter’s Bone.” Additionally De Niro turns his best performance in years, but that doesn’t say much, as he’s been in mostly awful stuff lately like “New Year’s Eve” or “Little Fockers.”

I wouldn’t call “Silver Linings Playbook” a great film, but there certainly is a big accomplishment in sidestepping it’s contrived plot elements and getting such a great performance out of Cooper. If it fails anywhere (aside from it’s awful title), it’s just in the simple stuff like camerawork and editing. It seems like Russell was trying to get us more into the mind of Pat, but it really doesn’t work, quick zooms and disjoined cuts end up just being distracting. Still, it’s a really solid dramedey that pretty much anyone can enjoy.


4/5 Stars