Film review: Silver Linings Playbook

promotional poster for movie SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOKStarring:
Bradley Cooper
Jennifer Lawrence
Robert De Niro
Jacki Weaver
Chris Tucker
Anupam Kher
Based on:
The Silver Linings Playbook by
Matthew Quick
David O. Russell
Screenplay by:
David O. Russell

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 starsI spent some us-time today with my mister, and this was the film we saw before we had our lunch, and I think you should all go and see it, because it’s the most all-round entertaining movie I’ve seen for years. This is a feast of a film, a comedy-drama-romance of families, friendships and forgiveness which sparkles with subtly dazzling restraint, studded with troubling emotions and snort-out-loud humour. The technicalites of cinematography, soundtrack and editing are never distracting yet ensure a smoothly paced film that glows with energy and warmth under grey Philadelphia skies.

We follow Pat(Bradley Cooper)’s recovery attempts when he returns from a court-mandated 8 months in a mental hospital to live with his parents, after a major bipolar meltdown made a mess of his former life. He’s lost his teaching job, his wife has taken out a restraining order against him, sold their house and moved away but he is determined to reconcile their marriage and get his life back on track. Pat’s father Patrizio (Robert de Niro) has been made redundant and is earning a living via illegal bookmaking on the local pro-football team, about which he is inordinately superstitious to the point of relying on Pat as his good luck charm who will help him win enough money to start a restaurant. Pat’s mother (Jacki Weaver) is caught between these men she loves and their obsessions, fantasies, gaffes and anger-management issues, cooking mountains of hearty food to stave off potential trouble during the weekly gamewatch afternoons (Patrizio is banned from his team’s home ground because of a fight in the stands years earlier).

Enter Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), old friend Ronnie’s (John Ortiz) sister-in-law, who is a recent widow with plenty of neuroses of her own and the need for a friend who understands what it is to be non-neurotypical. To complicate things further, Tiffany’s sister Veronica (Julia Stiles) also happens to be very good friends with Pat’s estranged wife. Chris Tucker keeps interfering chaotically in the best part I’ve seen him in for years as Pat’s fellow inpatient and new friend Danny, while Shea Whigham as Pat’s brother Jake, Anupam Kher as Jake’s therapist Dr Patel and a few more veteran faces round out the ensemble. The cast is uniformly excellent, the historic Oscar nominations for awards in all four acting classes (and the other four nominations for the film) are richly deserved, and it was wonderful to see Jacki Weaver in such a major Hollywood role. Jennifer Lawrence I enjoy more and more with each film of hers I see, particularly in a film where all the women are permitted to look like everyday women for once.

We walked out before the credits finished rolling, and apparently we missed a coda wrapping a bow around a few character arcs, so don’t do that. I’ll have to wait and see it on the DVD, because this is a film I will want to watch again and again.

Caveat: There is violence in this film which may be too troubling for some viewers. Pat and Patrizio are both prone to outbursts of rage where fists fly recklessly at home and away (where rival football fans do what rival football fans all too often do). At least they don’t consciously use it to manipulate, and no romanticising of the violence itself happens.

ObBechdel: not great, sadly. There are no tete-a-tetes between any of the three female characters – they only meet each other as part of socialising with the men, even the two sisters have only one brief on-screen spat which just squeezes into not quite being about their relationships with men. However, I didn’t grok this low-Bechdel aspect of the film until well after lunch after the movie, which on its own is a pleasant change – I didn’t feel excluded from immersion in the story this time just because the women didn’t talk much to each other – there was enough going on for them that it felt like a woman’s story too.

Categories: arts & entertainment

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11 replies

  1. Thanks for the rec. The trailers I saw made it look like it was all about a white guy and his issues, so I didn’t see it. I didn’t even know Chris Tucker was in the film! I’ll have to pick it up on DVD.

    • Because I was trying to be spoiler-aware I didn’t even mention the friendship that builds with some South Asian men, but it’s a key plot element and quite delightful. The film is ultimately centred on Pat and his issues, but becoming much more aware of and caring about the many different people around him is part of his journey.

  2. That’s funny, I have been feeling for a while that Jennifer Lawrence has slotted into the niche that was occupied by Julia Stiles a few years back. Someone else obviously saw the same thing. Now they should ask for their own movie.

  3. I saw the trailer for this film a while ago and have been avoiding it ever since. It played too much like another one of those films in which all that crazy people need is ~true love~ to magically fix them. Despite all the glowing reviews, I don’t think I can watch it.

    • To me it seemed to be aiming for more of when crazy people find at least a few ways to feel more in control of their own corners of the world, then they can feel able to open up to reciprocally caring relationships (only one of which is “true love” in the movie). I don’t know whether that’s different enough (and whether they achieved it well enough) to counter your understandable peeve about that narrative, though.

  4. I read another review of this film that said it was problematic in it’s treatment of the Jennifer Lawrence character and her attitude to sex as a coping mechanism or something along those lines. I can’t find the review again though. Thoughts?

    • Oh, I really don’t want to reveal the spoilers that a comprehensive answer to your question would involve. For me, they dealt with it as a thing that happened, and that some other people had more problems with than she did, in a really sympathetic way.

  5. I might try it then – that review put me off but I did want to see it. Thanks Tig Tog

  6. The movie’s based on a book, so there’s always the option of checking out the book first too. It might give more information about whether the film is likely to be your cup of tea.

  7. I was planning to see that movie, and had forgotten Jacki Weaver was in it – now I’m more likely to make sure I see it.
    I hope she’s not getting typecast as the role you describe seems a bit like a reprise of her role in Animal Kingdom. The mum of the troublesome sons, always ready to serve.

    • No doubt that role in Animal Kingdom helped her get this role, but at least Silver Linings Playbook gives her room to show her comedic talents as well.

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