Great acting carries Silver Linings Playbook

It’s that time of year again: Oscar season! Yes, Hollywood’s biggest award show of the year is this coming weekend, and you can bet there will be some disappointing selections made. You know, because politics always seems to rear its ugly head at this ceremony; films that deserve to win don’t, and films that should have been laughed at wind up laughing right back as they drown in shiny, golden statuettes. Now, before any of you start complaining that the show is pointless because The Dark Knight Rises didn’t get any nominations, know that you are henceforth banned from reading these reviews. Batman doesn’t quit for a girl, Alfred doesn’t quit because his boss won’t quit, and no Robin worth his salt is named after a character from the comics who got his report card stolen by the Joker. So, now that we’ve all got that out of our systems, let’s talk about a movie that actually is worthy of winning one of the coveted, faceless trophies; let’s talk about Silver Linings Playbook.

The main character of Silver Linings Playbook is Pat Solitano, Jr., just your average guy with bipolar disorder, who has recently been released from a mental institution. “Why was he in the mental institution?” you might ask. Because Pat had an episode upon learning of his wife’s infidelity, an episode that resulted in him nearly killing the poor sap, who obviously had no idea he was sleeping with a crazy guy’s wife (rookie mistake, pal). After deciding to win his wife back and proceeding to get really upset over the ending of The Catcher in the Rye (in that order), Pat meets Tiffany while having dinner at a friend’s place. Tiffany has her own incredibly heavy baggage, and the two wind up becoming friends because sharing neuroses is apparently the best way to do that. Tiffany agrees to help relay messages between Pat and his wife (she wields a restraining order against him, and also happens to be best friends with Tiffany’s sister) in exchange for Pat becoming her dance partner for an upcoming competition. Obligatory romance comedy shenanigans ensue.

Oh, Bradley Cooper. Honestly, I had no idea he even existed until I saw him steal money from middle school kids so he could go to Vegas in The Hangover. He’s come a long way since then, even managing to make a terrible sequel to The Hangover in the process. But hey, he was great opposite Robert De Niro in Limitless, and guess what? Cooper’s even better here. How much better? Best Actor-better. The way he capitalizes on his character’s insecurity and damaged emotional state is worthy of all the praise he’s been getting for this role. Oh, and that Catcher in the Rye thing I mentioned? I haven’t laughed harder since … well, probably the original Hangover. It’s the way he captures the more emotional moments, though; you can see the turmoil behind his eyes, you can see the pain he’s experiencing, and you will empathize with him. Even if you are the most soulless, heartless, Clarkson-hockey-supporter-est person in the world, you will empathize with him. That is just how well Cooper digs into his character.

Okay, so admittedly I have no idea if Cooper can actually get Best Actor. I mean, he’s going up against Abraham Lincoln … no, not Daniel Day-Lewis, Abe freaking Lincoln. So, yeah, that might be a bit tough. If anyone in this movie is a lock, though, it has to be Jennifer Lawrence for Best Actress. Oh man, Jennifer Lawrence. After proving to the Academy that she had the acting chops in Winter’s Bone and proving to the world that she could be the head of a blockbuster franchise in The Hunger Games, Lawrence is back to nab the Oscar and prove that there is still a place in Hollywood for curvy leading ladies; males everywhere can collectively weep in joy, now. All joking aside, Lawrence’s deadpan delivery combined with her astonishingly erratic behavior as Tiffany, and the seeming lack of remorse she displays on the surface, is all pretty amazing to experience. She and Cooper have undeniable chemistry (guys out there can start weeping again), and they play off of each other extremely well in Silver Linings Playbook. Actually, it’s probably worth watching just for their interplay alone.

This is the first film since the ’80s to be nominated in all four acting categories, and that’s thanks to some excellent supporting performances by De Niro and Jacki Weaver as Pat’s parents. Both do a great job at conveying parents’ cautious optimism in regards to a child who has strayed from the beaten path, but they are equally adept at being chary and even downright afraid of their son in some cases. De Niro does a great job of showing the audience where Pat got a lot of his behavioral quirks from, while simultaneously being wary about his son. Weaver effortlessly plays the role of the mother trying to keep the family from falling apart, and she and De Niro work very well together. Chris Tucker provides some laughs as Pat’s friend from the institution, Danny. Mainly, though, he gets a high five for teaching Lawrence’s Tiffany some very, very, ahem, good dance moves.

Writer/director David O. Russell will always be “that jerk who got into a fight over Christian Bale with Christopher Nolan” to me. I mean, you just don’t get into fights with Nolan. Yeah, he ruined the meaning of the word “inception,” but come on, the man cast David Bowie as Nikola Tesla. I will admit that Russell is capable of wringing some truly exceptional performances from his casts, The Fighter and now Silver Linings being definitive testaments to that. He’s also a pretty great screenwriter; the script for Silver Linings is equal parts emotional, funny, and romantic. It hits hard when it needs to, but also provides plenty of lighter moments that make it a fantastic, crowd-pleasing movie. It’s also probably one of the best romantic comedy films I’ve ever seen. I haven’t read the Matthew Quick novel of the same name that the script is adapting, so I can’t say how good of an adaptation it was. Stand alone, however, the movie works brilliantly thanks to Russell’s ability to direct drama and humor with equal finesse. This man probably deserves to win an Oscar too, but again, there is some stiff competition.

The cinematography in this movie was completely passable. That is, it won’t melt your eyes with rainbows like Life of Pi, but it probably won’t make you want to claw them out either. The soundtrack to this movie is pretty eclectic, with artists like Stevie Wonder, Alabama Shakes, and Les Paul & Mary Ford making it feel like a carefully handpicked playlist … which is pretty great. Songs from Bob Dylan and the aforementioned Alabama Shakes give it an almost homegrown, gritty feel, and the accompanying score by the great Danny Elfman helps to anchor the whole awesome aural experience.

Essentially, this review boils down to a few major points. For the male readers: JENNIFER LAWRENCE. For the female readers: BRAD COOPER. For the sadistic Nolan-haters—I mean movie buffs and film enthusiasts: DAVID O. RUSSELL. What about the combination of these factors? A movie that is pretty much for everyone. I find it incredibly difficult to imagine that anyone would truly dislike this movie; Russell designed it to be one of the most crowd-pleasing movies I’ve seen in a long time. Give this movie a shot, and then we can all groan together when the Academy shafts everyone involved with it this Sunday. Cheers!