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Silver Linings Playbook

December 13, 2012

Silver Linings Playbook poster

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While driving to the Philadelphia Eagles football stadium a father gives his son some advice. The father has been banned from the stadium for drinking too much and hitting multiple people. He needs his son at the game so he can give the Eagles some positive “juju.” The son, recently released from a mental hospital is already on edge and worried about missing dance practice with a widow whom he has befriended. What is the advice?

“Don’t drink too much, don’t hit anybody, you’ll be fine.”

Silver Linings Playbook walks a tightrope that Philippe Petit would have stayed away from. The film makes unlikable likable and proves Philly is a great town for sports movies (Invincible, Rocky). I’m amazed that the studio allowed this film. Grantland writer Zach Baron explains the pitch as this:

There’s this guy … he’s violently bipolar, hits his mother in the face … he meets a promiscuous widow … also, there is a dance competition … and everyone is obsessed with one of the most cursed and plagued and insular sports franchises in human history …

Silver Linings Playbook is dysfunction done well. An optimism flows above the depression. The movie is about understanding your issues and dealing with them. It plays like a screwball comedy with it’s dance contest and trash bag wearing yet hits home with some wonderful acting and stellar cast. Complaints have been made about the Hollywood ending to a difficult real condition but I don’t think the ending is too easy.

Silver Lining Playbook Bradley Cooper

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Nothing about this film is easy. David O’Russell (The Fighter, I Heart Huckabees) cast a 22 year old Jennifer Lawrence to play a widow who was married 3 1/2 years. Russell also managed to get a fantastic performance out of DeNiro who has been sleepwalking the past 12 years since his role in Meet the Parents. The revelation of this film is Bradley Cooper. The guy can act but so far has exuded smarm, charm and more smarm in Limitless, Hangover and Wedding Crashers. The director gave Cooper the role because of the anger he showed in Crashers. In SLP Cooper is intelligent, manic, imposing and immature. He balances the mood swings and monologues with aplomb.

Silver Linings Playbook Cooper

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Sidenote: Woody Allen cast Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams in Midnight in Paris because of Wedding Crashers. Also, Russell originally wrote the role in SLP for Vince Vaughn. The Crashers love is universal!

You find early on that Bradley Cooper’s character had been living with an undiagnosed bipolar condition that reared it’s ugly head when he beat his wife’s lover close to death. After an eight month stint in a mental hospital in which he befriends Chris Tucker he is released into his parent’s custody.

Silver Linings Playbook Chris Tucker

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He moves back in with his parents and they find themselves awake at 4 AM while he complains about A Farewell to Arms and constantly runs so he can clear his head and get in shape for his ex-wife. Eventually, he is introduced to Jennifer Lawrence’s promiscuous widow and they form a bond due to their no filter discussions, mutual hurt and protection of each other. You can tell they like each other but are not in the mental state to express it because they have their own problems to deal with. However, once they do realize their love they are still too damaged to express it. They are pushing away the person they want close. The scene where Lawrence rattles off why she is lucky to the family is fantastic and she totally earned the SAG and Golden Globe nominations.

Silver Linings Playbook Robert DeNiro

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A lesser director would have turned this film into a fluffy little piece of fluff that featured quirky characters and a magical cure for bipolar attractive people. The ending does have a “happily ever after” feel but the characters have earned it. They are aware of their problems and have a lot of work to do. However, a mutual understanding has been formed, demons have been excised and love has been found. I’d love to see a sequel of where they go next. David O’Russell has crafted a fine film and most importantly has created memorable characters and a movie that can spark conversations and arguments.

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