The writer/director has actively worked in Hollywood since 1987, and although he doesn’t have a huge number of films to his credit – only seven in 25 years – the small list is impressive, and includes 2010s award-winning “The Fighter”, staring Christian Bale and Amy Adams, and the rollicking 1996 Ben Stiller and Patricia Arquette film, “Flirting with Disaster”.
Like “Flirting with Disaster”, his latest release “Silver Linings Playbook”, which is earning great reviews from critics and audiences alike, deals with quirky family dysfunction in a comedic way. I loved Flirting and the unique story about Stiller’s character looking for his birth parents, but it was the type of movie that appealed only to certain moviegoers. “Silver Linings Playbook” is bound to be a major hit because it has wider appeal.
The screenplay is wrought with serious undertones, such as dealing with family dysfunction, mental illness and the harsh reality of life changing traumatic events, yet “Silver Linings Playbook” is thoroughly charming, funny and honest, and it has you rooting for its troubled and wounded characters from start to finish.
Former teacher Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) moves back home with his parents (Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver) after his release from a mental institution, a place the local authorities sent him in lieu of prison time after he severely beats a fellow co-worker having an affair with his wife. At the facility, he’s diagnosed with bipolar disorder, yet refuses to take his medicine, and is more than obsessed with reconciling with his wife, who has a restraining order against him. Things gets even more complicated when he meets the mysterious Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) who suffers from severe depression, and is dealing with a traumatic loss of her own.
Additionally, the story perfectly captures the passion of being a crazed Philadelphia sports fan, and all of the quirkiness, tradition and superstition that comes along with it. It will have Eagles’ fans cheering loudly, especially when DeNiro utters lines about “DeSean Jackson dropping the ball on the one-yard line and failing to get touchdown against the Cowboys” or how coach Andy Reid mismanaged the time clock by “wasting a time out call on that play.” Cooper, who was born and raised in Jenkintown, a Philadelphia suburb, must understand this mentality well, although in an interview to promote the movie, he mentioned throwing snowballs at Santa, a lazy “go to” critisism when taking about Eagles fans, and one still mentioned by today’s media despite it occurring nearly 45 years ago — before Bradley was born.
With wonderfully believable performances by Cooper, Lawrence, DeNiro, Weaver, and the supporting players, this fine cast had me totally mesmerized. Cooper and Lawrence, who had the most difficult, yet meaty roles, especially nailed their troubled characters. It’s easy to understand why the Oscar talk has begun.
The screenplay, based on Matthew Quick’s best selling debut novel of the same name, has disappointed some fans who say the movie diverted too far from the original story, especially in terms of casting, and claim the screenplay has several flaws. I didn’t read the book, and I was far too busy laughing and being completely drawn in to the story to notice anything wrong with it at all.
If you want to enjoy a thoroughly entertaining film this holiday season, this may be the one that best delivers. Easily, it’s the best movie I’ve seen in a long time, and my favorite of the year, so far. I can’t think of anyone – be it man or woman, the hardest to please movie critics, those who see the glass as half empty or full, or anyone who believes that every cloud has a silver lining—who wouldn’t enjoy it.