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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Holiday Hangover: Silver Linings Playbook

CRAZY
And I mean that in a good way.  Silver Linings Playbook, besides having one of the strangest titles for a film ever, is probably the CRAZIEST love story I've seen since Punch Drunk Love.  From the very beginning, it snatches you up on a manic roller coaster ride of mental disorder, football, ballroom dancing and strangely enough, romance.  And it completely knocked me over.  We've had a pretty great year when it comes to great films and great performances.  Silver Linings Playbook has the distinction of possessing both of those traits.

The film is a Matthew Quick novel adaptation from director David O. Russell.  It centers around Bradley Cooper's character Pat.  A man with a bi-polar disorder who is desperately trying to better himself in order to get back with his estranged wife.  More than that though, it is a film about acceptance.  Whether that be acceptance of one's fate or acceptance of one's illness.  Now, this is not slow burn psychological study.  The film is handled much differently.  The pacing of this film is noticeably frenetic.  The veracity really puts you in the head of someone who has bi-polar disorder.  You are immediately thrust into this world with these characters and barely have time to react to each strange fit of rage or absurd situation.  And it is completely captivating to watch.

It must suck to be Bradley Cooper.  Well, not really.  Ladies love him, his films do well, and he seems to be pretty well liked by his peers.  However, he's just now starting to get recognized and rewarded for his acting ability.  Pretty boy douchebag roles are now being replaced by roles like this on his resume.  He portrays his disorder in such a realistic and grounded way.  A misconception for playing someone with a mental disorder is to do it over the top.  But its actually the subtleties that really sell it.  And while Cooper has his share of over the top outburst, he nails the small moments where his illness tortures him.  For as good as Cooper is, Jennifer Lawrence steals this film from him.  Its a welcome change to see an actress who can do the schlocky youth fueled films like Hunger Games and X-Men, but also have the range to do deeper, meaningful films like this.  YOU HEAR ME KRISTEN STEWART!?!  CLOSE YOUR MOUTH!  Lawrence is amazing, her chemistry with Cooper is magical, and she pretty much eats Robert De Niro's lunch acting-wise in a climactic scene.  And not a lazy Rocky & Bullwinkle Robert De Niro.  A trying, solid performing Robert De Niro.  I'd hold up the performances by Silver Linings Playbook's ensemble cast to every film it'll be nominated against.  Even Django.

David O. Russell is infamous for being a bit of a hard ass to work for.  However, his abilities as a director are unquestionable.  Especially directing films like this.  Films where the main characters are severely flawed.  Realistically flawed.  But still likable characters all the same.  The way he lets his scenes just play out must be catnip for actors.

Silver Linings Playbook might be lost in the CRAZY award season mix because it isn't as fun or escapist as its competition.  But I think it will stand the test of time because it is well made, well performed and just a feel good movie.  Slap on a DeSean Jackson jersey...put some money on the Eagles...watch it...then tell me I'm wrong.

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