Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Silver Linings Playbook

By Sati. Wednesday, January 16, 2013 , , , , , , , ,
Silver Linings Playbook is director's David O.Russel follow up to his hugely successful The Fighter (which ended 24-year long history of the Academy snubbing Christian Bale). To be honest I was quite surprised that this director took on to adapt that book - which is essentially a romance story. O.Russel strikes me more of a director who would be interested in more manly subjects like war or boxing - it was only recently that I read about O Russell having a son who suffers from bi-polar disorder and that is what made him took interest in this project. But let me tell you this now - Tiffany, the main female character in Silver Linings, would probably kick any boxer's ass and bring him to tears, just by using her wits and passionate words.

The film follows Pat (sensational Bradley Cooper) who was released from mental institution after 8 months he spent there. During his stay Pat was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. But the reason he got there was not very unusual - he caught his beloved wife, Nikki, cheating on him. He snapped, beat up the guy who was with her in the shower and to avoid prison he ended up in mental institution. His mother Dolores (beautifully subtle Jacki Weaver) takes responsibly for him and takes Pat home early to his father's Pat senior, (incredible Robert De Niro) surprise.
Pat has a plan - Nikki is a teacher so to show her he cares about her job he will read all the books she teaches in her class. He also plans to exercise and use positive thinking - his goal is to find a silver lining every day. Clearly it works for him as he looses weights and appears to be a very nice and sweet person (albeit the person without any social skills). The problem is that he deluded himself into thinking  that if he becomes better he will get his wife back. He does it to "save" his marriage and not to save himself.

Soon Pat gets invited to his friend's house for dinner party. There he meets Tiffany (fantastic Jennifer Lawrence), young widow who just lost her job because she slept with everyone in the office. Tiffany, like Pat, got her heart broken and just like Pat she doesn't really care about what people think of her. They are like two lonely islands in the word of connected land. Pat doesn't understand Tiffany but he senses a kind spirit in her and soon they start meeting regularly (though mostly it's because of Tiffany's maneuvers to bump into him). Since Tiffany knows Nikki and Pat can't see his wife because of the restraining order, Pat wants her to give Nikki the letter he wrote.
Tiffany agrees but only if Pat does something for her - she loves to dance and wants to enter a dance competition. She needs a partner and reluctant Pat agrees to help her. I don't remember the last time I saw such beautiful sequences of dancing. Don't get me wrong - their dancing isn't the best, but the beauty of it is that it works like a therapy - they have this hobby they share, focus their time and energy on and it slowly cures them out of their worries and sadness and allows them to bond. There are some great moments here that illustrate that, as Pat is so exhausted after dancing that he comes home and he couldn't care less about the books he wanted to read to win his wife back.

The chemistry and the relationship between Tiffany and Pat is very refreshing. It's not your touchy-feely usual romantic movie mechanics where the guy is the perfect prince charming and the girl is pure and lovable. Pat says horribly inappropriate things (one of the funniest recurring jokes in the film is the fact he keeps mentioning Tiffany's husband being dead) and he even calls Tiffany a big slut at one point. Because that is who she was - after the death of her husband she started whoring around because it was the only thing that let her escape the pain and loneliness.
These two damage souls are so different which only makes the chemistry between them more fiery. I found Lawrence performance here to be fascinating because Tiffany's feelings for Par are actually even more evident when the two don't share a scene - when she is waiting for him and he doesn't show up and she is devastated or when she sees his ex wife during the night of the contest and knows that Pat probably won't give a shit about her now that Nikki is there. Lawrence depicts such overwhelming range of emotions in that single moment, when her hopes and dreams crush and burn and she feels furious and heartbroken about it.

But what sold the romance angle of the movie for me were Cooper's eyes during the scene the above image comes from. The way he looks at Tiffany in this moment was so genuine, thankful and eager of the things and finally - happiness - to come, it really made me believe in those two people being in love. The chemistry between them, especially during the incredible final dance is amazing. And that final dance is a little masterpiece on its own - it's just as crazy, joyful and unconventional as the characters really are. I haven't seen two people dancing and wanting each other so bad since Mia Wallace and Vincent Vega danced that twist. Yeah, you read it right.
What's so fantastic about the love story here is that it's so unique and it actually has more depth than you would think it has at first glance. Pat thought he found his eternal love in his wife, who cheated and abandoned him. Tiffany got married and probably thought he will grow old with Tommy, who died. They were both broken, lost, beaten by their sudden loneliness and left with holes in their hearts. And then they meet each other and that saves them.

Since it's really Pat's story we get to see him beginning to understand he loves Tiffany through his eyes - when he is time and time again mesmerized and touched by the things she does, sometimes as simple as choosing a tie he should wear for dance contest. One of my favorite moments happened when Pat's friend was dancing with Tiffany and Pat cut in, probably not even realizing he was jealous.

The film wouldn't work without Pat being a believable character and Bradley Cooper truly does a hell of a job here. I liked Cooper ever since I saw him being all adorable in Alias and I was delighted when he sky rocketed to fame after the Hangover. He has this nice aura about him and he seems like a genuinely sweet guy. But obviously, since a movie like the Hangover was his big break nobody actually thought of him as of great thespian. Well, those people were proved wrong. I'd argue that Cooper had much more difficult job to pull off here than Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln and Hugh Jackman in Les Miserables. He had to play someone who will feel familiar to us, yet odd at the same time. Human being who you can relate to, yet someone who acts crazy at many times. And he totally nailed that role.

I would be delighted if come Oscar night it was Cooper who wins Best Actor. One, I think Daniel Day Lewis is good but 3 Academy Awards so soon is too much. Two, I love it when someone who deserves to win and is not being picked as sure winner wins - the explosion of happiness and genuine surprise makes for the best Oscar moments - I really don't think I need to remind you all of Jean Dujardin's win last year whose speech was just pure joy captured in words and gestures.
The only thing better would be De Niro winning, because he is seriously amazing here. He has moving moments here playing the father who is worried about his son and just wants to spend some time with him and help him get on his feet. He also has hilarious classic De Niro moment (during which I actually cried because I laughed so much) where he chases the kid who wanted to interview Pat about mental disease. When he catches up to him, while wearing pajamas and slippers, he tells him exactly what he will do with the kid's camera if he won't stop harassing his son.

De Niro's character is really interesting - he has his obsessions and problems too - he is addicted to betting on football games and he counts on...luck and signs when he does so. He is extremely superpositions, he has slight OCD and he pulls his entire family into his little rituals. It's in those scenes we see the love Pat's family has for each other, as everyone participates and Dolores never looks at her sons and husband with judgement - she only has love for them all.
One of my favorite things in the movie was whenever Pat senior and Tiffany interacted. Lawrence, who is barely 22-years old, completely held her own. The moment when during the contest Pat goes to talk to Nikki leaving heartbroken Tiffany behind and Pat senior sees all of that was incredible - he sees this young woman being in love with his son and his son making a foolish mistake. Then De Niro delivers one of the best lines I heard being said in the movie (any romantic movie, really) to Pat, the one that I used as a title of this review.

Silver Linings Playbook is flawlessly written, incredibly acted out and beautifully made. It's one of the year's best films - a love story that is both incredibly touching and funny. It will warm your heart and maybe even force you to look for silver linings in your own life too. And it will convince you that no matter how damaged and insane you may feel, chances are that there is someone out there just as crazy as you - waiting to love you for who you really are.

Silver Linings Playbook (2012, 122 min)
Plot: After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own.
Director: David O. Russell
Writers: David O. Russell (screenplay), Matthew Quick (novel)
Stars: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro
 
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36 comments:

  1. This film is still in my top 5. I really wish the ads would stop using that godawful Lumineers song. It's so fucking annoying. I hate this new wave folk-pop shit.

    Anyways, I think this is one of David O. Russell's best films. Notably as he really gave his cast something good to work with. The performance I was really surprised by was Chris Tucker as Pat's friend. He didn't overdo it and just played it straight. I loved the scene where he told Tiffany to shake that booty.

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    1. Yeah he was surprisingly good here! Very funny but also believable.

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  2. Glad you love this Sati! This is one of my top 5 fave from TCFF last year, it was emotionally-gratifying on top of being entertaining and fun. There's a good mix of deep pathos and silly-ness but it all ends up being one great film. Lawrence has such an emotional maturity for being only 22, she's an old soul.

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    1. She really does, I'm very impressed with her work. Even when I don't like the film, like with the Hunger Games, she still delivers wonderful performance.

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  3. Yes, exactly everything you said. I was really surprised by Cooper in this. As hot as I find him, he usually has such a douchebag persona around him, and Pat was anything but that, even when he said things to your face.
    Lawrence was amazing. So very different from her Winter's Bone role.
    And oh De Niro, I am rooting the most for him (and the whole film). He was spectacular.
    Since I am Bollywood, I am partial to movies with dance numbers, and since I'm crazy and stuff, I especially love numbers like this when it's driven more out of the emotion and quirks and less the choreography.

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    1. I actually always like Cooper, he was kinda a douche in The Hangover but then in the end of the movie he was so happy to see his wife and kid, I found it to be really sweet.

      I really loved that dance, it was a wonderful scene and they both did a great job.

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  4. Great review! Personally, I'm still \hung up on the book a lot so my love for the movie hasn't quite kicked in yet. I truly wish Bradley Cooper would win for Best Actor. He captures the voice of the book so well. I originally didn't like Jennifer Lawrence, the way I read Tiffany in the book, but I'm starting to get there... Pretty much my favorite movie for Oscar season so far though!

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    1. Thank you! Same here, it's definitely my favorite out of Best Picture nominees and all the others aren't even close.

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  5. You know what, it is actually interesting how you wrote the review this time. Usually you go for the short summary and then the way things were given, actors etc, but this time you took your time with explaining the story, as if once you started you couldn't stop and I feel like that's what SLP is all about. You can't just go for the short plot summarization, you have to tell the story because all its pits and pieces matter. All of them. Even Pat's friend matters because though he was crazy, Pat was his friend and it showed the fact that he doesn't judge based on "crazy" - probably why Tiffani started to, in some ways, pursue him, she saw the good in him.

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    1. It was really hard to summarize the story in just one paragraph, as it is such a great script and everything that happens is really important for character development.

      I guess it was a lot like Pat's friend's speech about how different they are and they see a world in different way, the ones who are 'damaged". There is a lot of truth in that.

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  6. Good defense of the film, which you loved a bit more than I did. I prefer Lawrence's performance in Winter's Bone, Cooper's character was easier for me to care about. Maybe a film that will grow on me in future.

    I read on IMDb trivia that Anne Hathaway was supposed to play the J Lawrence part-but couldn't fit it into her schedule. Didn't know the director has a son who suffers from bi-polar disorder.

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    1. Anne would be awful here, then again after witnessing her "campaign" this Oscar season I'm not sure If I'm ever going to be able to enjoy her performances.

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  7. Come on, don't sit on the fence, tell us if you liked it or not ;)

    This had quite a limited release near me so I missed out and am quite annoyed about it! Very much looking forward to checking it out. Great review!

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    1. Thank you! I'm sure you will like this one.

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  8. What a beautiful review! Seriously, this is so good. I loved this movie so much that I'll be seeing it for a 2nd time tomorrow. I have to say, the scene where they scream in happiness after the dance competition, that was my favorite scene. So hilarious and so touching.

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    1. Thank you!

      It was such a great scene, the entire family was so happy and was so close to each other in that moment.

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  9. Great review Sati, I agree with most of it! wow, 95? you really loved it, didn't you? nice to see we agree on giving Cooper the Oscar over the other two!

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    1. I really did, romantic unique stories are my favorites :) Cooper was awesome!

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  10. So.... you were impressed with Lawrence, then? :D I couldnt settle on what side of that coin you landed :D

    You're totally right across the boards, this was a great film with great acting. It was really very good.

    I'm actually NOT rooting for De Niro to get the Oscar. I thought he was good, and it was nice to see him in a good role again, but at no point did I think "Oscar". There's some other people more deserving in that category, but i think the potential is there for De Niro to score a name win :(

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    1. I think it will be more clear after SAG, but right now it's kinda a close call I think every single one of nominees in Best Suporting Actor has an Oscar already.

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  11. This movie is in my top 10 movies in 2012. I loved Lawrence in it, though I couldn't help but think she was too young for Cooper (but it didn't bother me that much). Cooper was great too. I love how their madness and chemistry matched, so not the mellow rom com types. De Niro was great as well. I thought maybe if the movie went on a little dark, perhaps it's more interesting.

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    1. Yeah I think she was a bit too young for a role of someone who was married for 3 years, but her and Cooper had amazing chemistry.

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  12. Another magnificent review, Margaret. I absolutely love your description of how the romance was developed, with depth, in a unique way. I have been looking forward to this movie, and your review has piqued my interest further -- particularly the way you described the dynamics of the characters' relationship, the writing, and the acting. Reading that Russel was drawn to the subject of bipolar disorder because of his son's illness makes my interest skyrocket even further. I am always interested in depictions of mental illness by filmmaker who actually "get it."

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    1. Thank you! I never known anyone who suffered from bi-polar disorder but I read opinions from people who deal with that professionally and they said Cooper really did great job depicting it.

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  13. Wonderful review! I really liked the film, especially the performances. Cooper was terrific and definitely better than Lawrence, who was great. I'd love for him to win Best Actor. He's my favorite of the nominees.

    I'll probably see it again this weekend, but right now I think it's very good but not great, which is the same reaction I had to The Fighter.

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    1. Doh! Forgot about Joaquin Phoenix, whose performance I think is the best of the Oscar noms. Still, a Cooper win would be awesome!

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    2. Thanks! I like Washington's work in Flight a bit more than Cooper's but seeing how Denzel have 2 Oscars already, I'd love for Cooper to win.

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    3. I have yet to see the Master, hopefully I will get to do that before the Oscars :)

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  14. Fantastic, epic review here. Really glad you liked this one. I'd love to see this sneak up and beat out Lincoln for the Oscar. We shall see!

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    1. Thank you! I still don't get why people are saying Lincoln will win BP - but I'd much rather see it win than Les Mis for example :)

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  15. This is (without a doubt) one of my favorite films of 2012. I had high expectations for it, and it met all those expectations and then some! I agree with what you said regarding that dance sequence. It made ME want to enter a dance competition, because I know I'd suck, but it would be completely therapeutic and character-building for me like it was for Cooper's character.

    I have a lot of people hesitant about this one because "Lawrence and Cooper don't look like they'd make a romantic couple"...so I have to take time to explain to people to just shutup and see it. Expectations will be blown. I love this movie. Incredible acting by the entire cast <3 Good review, girl.

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    1. Maybe you should do it then?:) I don't think it would be therapeutic for me, though. No way :)

      I actually kinda think there is something between them in real life. Cooper said something that he is old enough to be her dad, but the look in his eyes many times during the movie...the greatest actors in the world could fake love with their eyes, but as incredible as Cooper was he isn't one of them.

      Thanks!

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  16. Keeping my fingers crossed this one hangs around theatres for a few more weeks. I've yet to see it and it's not near me.

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    1. I'm sure it will expand closer to Oscars :)

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  17. Loved this film. and your review had me nodding my head in agreement as I remembered the scenes you were mentioning. Such a beautiful film full of beautiful moments.

    "their dancing isn't the best, but the beauty of it is that it works like a therapy - they have this hobby they share, focus their time and energy on and it slowly cures them out of their worries and sadness and allows them to bond." -So true!

    a refreshing movie through and through. and it is the little things that made it so real and a genuine joy.

    Great review here Sati! Fantastic

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    1. Thank you! Really loved the film, I'm definitely going to be rooting for it during Oscar night.

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