top of page
  • Adam Carr

David O Russell Draws Up Winning "Playbook" (Review)

David O. Russell’s "Silver Linings Playbook" is a love story of two mentally delicate lovers. Each has experienced loss and is seeking to fill the void. The movie’s greatness relies on the actors portraying its three central roles. Mr. Russell has pulled out several brilliant performances from his actors. Led by Bradley Cooper the story focuses on Pat Solitano Jr. who is bipolar. He is being released from a mental health facility after reacting violently to his wife cheating. He devises a plan to get his life back in order- a silver lining playbook. He wants to win his wife back, a high school teacher of English, so he dedicates himself to reading the novels on her syllabus. He takes up running to keep in shape. One hitch in the plan is his distaste for the medication he is supposed to take for his bipolar disorder. That doesn’t sit well with the family. Mr. Cooper plays Pat Jr. like a pot of popcorn kernels sitting on high heat. His words shoot out in rapid fire succession as he bounces around trying frantically to stay one step ahead of his disorder. But Mr. Cooper also gives Pat a soul which commands our sympathy while doing everything he can to repel us.


Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook


Doing their best to keep him from going over the cliff again are his parents Dolores (Jacki Weaver) and Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro). Ms. Weaver is a natural as the distressed mother trying to recapture the tranquility that existed before Pat Jr.’s incarceration. She also does a nice job of balancing the toughness of a mother trying to get her son to take his meds while also spoiling him. Teaming with Pat Sr. they play good cop bad cop when Pat Jr. acts out; Dolores showing unlimited patience while Pat Sr.’s evaporates before our eyes. But Pat Sr. is one of the more complex and compelling characters you’ll see in the movies. He is a blue collar man who isn’t afraid to throw his fists and is hostile toward shows of emotion. But Pat Jr.’s incarceration has an effect on Pat Sr. He harbors a bit of guilt that he might be responsible for his son’s disorder; that he might not have paid enough attention to him while he was growing up. He tries to make up for his short comings by giving his son the attention he didn’t have time to give and opens himself up emotionally. It is the best performance by an actor of the year. It is a role made to be played by one of the best American actors. Mr. De Niro, with a reservoir of untapped ability, is too often typecast or used to spoof his earlier successes as a criminal or heavy. It is a deep and emotional performance that lays bare both the character and actor and is enjoyable to behold.


Jackie Weaver, Robert DeNiro, Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook
Jackie Weaver, Robert DeNiro, Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook


The foil to Pat Jr.’s plan is Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence). Tiffany is fighting her own guilt over the death of her husband. Her marriage, according to her husband, lacked intimacy. She has tried to over compensate by having sex with everyone, everywhere, since his death. She puts up a wall of defense keeping emotional intimacy out. Yet at the same time she yearns for someone she can trust emotionally. She doesn’t want to be judged for her past behavior so a candidate like Pat Jr. with his reputation as a nut seems the perfect candidate to start a romance. Tiffany and Pat Jr. meet at a dinner party hosted by Pat’s friend Ronnie (John Ortiz) and his wife, Tiffany’s sister, Veronica (Julia Stiles). Both Mr. Ortiz, who plays a fun loving husband whose wife has put the clamps on him and Ms. Stiles, whose character oozes privilege and is dripping contempt for her deranged sister, give two performances that are delicious. Tiffany and Pat Jr. swing away from dinner conversation etiquette and connect over a dialogue about their favorite and least favorite meds. A spark ignites and Tiffany pursues it even through Pat is reluctant. Ms. Lawrence and Mr. Cooper’s performances meld together flawlessly. Some of the pleasure of watching "Silver Linings Playbook" comes from their jousting.


Overall it’s a wonderful movie but there are several roadblocks that get in the way. After a fight at an Eagles football game the group comes home to explain what happened to Pat Sr. Included in the group is Pat Jr.’s psychologist which was distracting since I couldn’t imagine a psychologist going to his client’s house after being involved in a brawl. It turned out his presence was a gimmick to explain what a parlay is to the non-betting members of the audience. At the same time the device of a parlay- the doubling down on the first bet Pat Sr. lost into the next game and score of Tiffany and Pat Jr.’s dance competition- is a beautiful redirection of the action. Some would think it totally unrealistic or against the laws of common sense but if you’ve had the chance to attend a football game you learn that such qualities do not exist among football fans. Unfortunately another problem in the script is the character of Danny, played by Chris Tucker, who befriends Pat Jr. in the mental health facility. The Danny character shows up three times after Pat Jr. is released and in each time destroys the momentum of the story of which he doesn’t contribute.


David O Russell directing Silver Linings Playbook
David O Russell directing Silver Linings Playbook


Mr. Russell’s direction does a nice job at building the fire that consumes Tiffany and Pat Jr. He starts the movie with many quick cuts to get us inside Pat Jr.’s head on the day of his release. He then shows us the chaos that establishes itself within the Solitano’s home when he moves in. But he takes his time with the Pat Jr. and Tiffany characters letting them feel each other out as a romance between these two emotionally struggling individuals begins to blossom. "Silver Linings Playbook" is an unconventional love story of whose kind I wish would come around more often.

Comments


bottom of page