DO NOT WATCH ANY TRAILER FOR THIS FILM! SOME OF THE WORST TRAILERS EVER MADE!
“Silver Linings Playbook” is a very funny, family (ABOUT families and marriages, not FOR family viewing), terribly feel good film. Screenwriter/director David O. Russell (“Three Kings,” “Flirting with Disaster,” “The Fighter”) wows us again with his realistic, detailed relationships; rapid dialogue and delicious situations that never totally sell out to pure quirk. Russell must be a real actors’ director. He knows how to let them do their thing to the max and really perform (obviously ad-libbing was encouraged). And there’s a lot of Theology of the Body in it, spoken and unspoken (and a little anti-TOB, too). Although mostly TOB, it's as if Hollywood still has to leave the door open for anything-goes, total sexual license.
Set in Philadelphia, Pat (Bradley Cooper in a difficult comedic role that he fills with ease by simply deadpanning and reacting as his character would—usually violently, but it’s funny) is a young married man with mental issues that caused a lengthy stay in a psych ward…AND basically the end of his marriage. But Pat, newly released from the hospital into his parents’ care (his underdog, OCD, sports-obsessed father is played by Robert De Niro with much vulnerability; and his loving, worried Mom, Jackie Weaver) is determined to win his wife back. How do family and friends react to the “new” Pat? In all different ways, but Pat is blessed with some truly great support.
Enter Tiffany (a “look out world, I’m only going to get better at this” Jennifer Lawrence) for one of the plainest “meet cutes” ever--but it’s perfect because these two have no use for niceties and conventions. They don’t even know how to do them. Tiffany is an unstable young widow who is as unfiltered as Pat (according to Tiffany it’s “telling the truth”). But Pat only has eyes for his wife and enlists Tiffany in his plan to win her back. Since Pat now owes Tiffany, he must join her as her partner in a dance competition which Tiffany thinks is a better plan to get Pat’s wife back. But then things get complicated with Dad’s plans, and all plans converge around an Eagles’ game and the dance competition.
The betting that goes on around these two contests carries with it an incredibly long, convoluted and boring exposition, but no matter, the film had us at “excelsior,” “no negativity,” and “look for the silver lining.”
Will a love relationship develop between these two well-matched misfits and kindred spirits? All I can tell you is that, if it does, it will be in great part because Pat totally respects Tiffany even when she doesn’t respect herself (and many other men don’t respect her). There’s a beautiful scene to this effect: of a man defending a woman’s honor, rather than just standing aside because she’s “free” to do what she wants.
--Everyone will be able to relate to Pat and Tiffany. Because we’re all a little crazy.
--Beautiful portrayal of a beautiful chaste relationship (and very physical: dancing).
--There’s a sense of respect, waiting and earning the woman on the man’s part.
--Solid use of Led Zep.
--Great soundtrack—lotsa 60’s & 70’s: Danny “Good Taste” Elfman.
--The precision of Alexander Payne (“The Descendants”), but not as anal (sorry, don’t know how else to phrase it).
--The “R” rating states that there is “nudity,” but not really: a quick shower scene where nothing really shows. Some sex talk and f-bombs, yes. Common Sense Media says: for 16+.
--Pssssst. In real life, Jennifer Lawrence is unfiltered, too. J
--Wouldn’t mind if this film wins some Oscars. Like, the actors win.
--Palpable love story. Intense male-female interaction—in every way. When male-female relationships are authentic? Men and women “catechize” each other about God, love and the human in a way no one/nothing else can.
--Hemingway! ha ha ha
--The side characters (the cop, the kid with the FLIP, Tiffany’s brother-in-law, etc.) are all so necessary, fleshed out and hilarious. Julia Stiles is a REVELATION here.
MY FIVE MINOR PROBLEMS WITH THE FILM:
- One does not simply stick Chris Tucker (who is way overdue for a comeback) in a teeny, tepid, barely-funny role. Thank you.
- Russell is the master of the "button" (ending the scene with a snappy or funny bit of dialogue or great visual) and then cutting deep into the next scene. He does this throughout “Linings,” but then does one distracting fade-to-black that just bugged me.
- The convoluted laying out of the bet (parlay) in Act Three.
- No one likes to be judged (and Jesus told us not to), but Tiffany’s near nymphomania is treated waaaaaaaaaaay too lightly. (It's not shown, only spoken of. Often.)
- The climax was so well set up, but it needed to be more twisty. At least a little more. A little too direct. Perhaps.