Monday, December 3, 2012

Movie with Abe: Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook
Directed by David O. Russell
Released November 16, 2012

It’s difficult to classify some films in a specific genre category. “Silver Linings Playbook” is likely to be described as a comedy, yet it has extremely dramatic and unsettling elements that fuel its story and even its lighter plot points. Whatever it is, David O. Russell’s adaptation of Matthew Quick’s 2008 novel handles its material very well, creating fascinatingly complex and immutable characters. Its story is a definitively quirky one, with eccentric, temperamental personalities and an unconventional path to finding happiness.

Bradley Cooper, who began his career as a sweet-natured, determined reporter on “Alias,” has established a reputation for playing less responsible characters since then, highlighted by his starring role in the depraved comedy “The Hangover.” In “Silver Linings Playbook,” he takes on a similarly out-of-control part, with a more dramatic backbone. As Patrick, a substitute recently released from a mental institution after a violent outburst, Cooper is energetic, passionate, and entirely incapable of censoring himself in social situations. Prone to loud fits and lengthy tirades, Patrick is not inherently likeable, fueled by his continued love for his ex-wife Nikki and his delusional belief that she feels the same way. Following Patrick on his road to becoming sympathetic is an endearing journey filled with adventure and humor.

The capable Cooper is well-matched with the film’s female lead. Jennifer Lawrence, who broke out in 2010’s “Winter’s Bone” and won the lead role in this year’s epic “The Hunger Games,” makes a marvelous first impression as Tiffany, the troubled younger sister of Nikki’s good friend Veronica (Julia Stiles), who willfully shares Patrick’s lack of concern with social graces and has no trouble being brutally honest with him. She’s intimidating, prickly, and just the person to get inside Patrick’s head. Lawrence handles the comedy superbly, and she’s joined in that respect by Chris Tucker, making a great return to cinema after his career-making role in the “Rush Hour” series in a scene-stealing supporting role as Patrick’s friend Danny, a fellow mental patient.

Film devotees will be most excited about the return to form by Robert De Niro, who has put little effort into his film choices and the parts he takes within them during the last decade. As Patrick’s stubborn father with a passion for football, De Niro creates an endearing portrait of a father struggling to reconnect with his son. The focus on family is strong, as in director David O. Russell’s previous films, “The Fighter,” and it serves as the dramatic energy that ties together the film’s focus on football, dance, and relationships. Like last year’s “The Descendants,” this dramatic comedy starts at a strange place and gradually makes its way back to a sense of normalcy. The trip there is paved with oddities, and, ultimately, it’s a fun ride.


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