Saturday, February 2, 2013

Silver Linings Playbook review

Quirky really isn't my thing. Some of the most acclaimed movies of the last few years (Juno) I haven't liked were just too different and out there for me. So when David O. Russell's Oscar-nominated dramedy Silver Linings Playbook was described as quirky, I got a little worried. But I really had nothing to fear because Silver Linings Playbook is one of the best films of the year (2012, that is) and truly isn't quirky at all. It is just one of the best blends of drama and comedy in recent years. It does everything that 2011's The Descendants (and to a lesser extent, Argo) did right but takes it to the next level. It is a perfect blend of both genres. Silver Linings Playbook also has a great script, a fantastic cast and a fun story that has dark and light moments.

The film follows Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) a man who was sent to a mental hospital for beating his wife's lover almost to death. Pat is just getting out of the hospital and is struggling to get used to life back in the real world. He is bi-polar, a condition that he just learned he had and he refuses to take his medication. It doesn't help that Pat's father (Robert De Niro) is also mental and short tempered and his mom (Jacki Weaver) doesn't know how to control his behavior. His wife has a restraining order against him but he is convinced that he will get back with her. But his condition is suppressed when he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who is just as screwed up as he is.

I had a really hard time writing that summary. Silver Linings Playbook has one of the craziest scripts of the year and you really can't put it into words. There is a lot going on but everything is fully developed so you can typically understand what is going on. The script is really smart. I can say that without a doubt about this movie. It is great. David O. Russell knows exactly how to make this movie and it blends comedy in drama together seamlessly. It is one of the few films that I have seen that truly deserves the title of dramedy because either there is too much drama or too much comedy. Russell shows a tough view of mental illness while also showing that not everything in life sucks.

The performances are also great. I mean, it's hard to get a good performance in a film let alone three great ones. For me, the two standouts were Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. What they do with these two characters is a feat of acting; they make Pat and Tiffany characters that you can relate to, while also showing you how crazy they are. If I was voting for the Oscars, I would definitely vote for Lawrence and probably Cooper (close with DDL). Robert De Niro was also good. He hasn't made an acclaimed film in a long time so it's good to see him back. Another underrated performance was one of Anupam Kher as Dr. Patel. His character was very funny and he delivers a great performance. I didn't think Jacki Weaver was great but she was solid.

Another great thing about this movie was how real it felt. I mean, it felt like you were really sitting with these people, watching them talk and that is a testament to Russell's script and the fantastic performances the actors put on screen. Only great films can do that. I'm not saying that Silver Linings Playbook is a great film (I need multiple viewings to decide that) but it is pretty darn good to be able to do that.

One thing that I think that some studios have forgotten, especially the independent ones, is that movies are meant to be entertainment. Take The Impossible for example. A very good film from Spanish director JA Bayona. Contains some great performances. But extremely depressing. Look at Lincoln. Well constructed film that is satisfying in the end. Two great performances from DDL and Tommy Lee Jones. But boring. I think that if something is a truly great film, it should have all the qualities of a great film but also be entertaining. In the end, those are the films that stick with us. Those are the ones we watch over and over. And the three best films this year, Skyfall, Argo, and Silver Linings Playbook all do that. That's why they are great films.

I have had a tough time grading this movie. I have decided that I'm going to give it 5 stars out of 5. I wasn't feeling great at my screening but I still really loved it. If I was 100%, I would have loved it even more.

THE FINAL GRADE: A+                                            (10/10)



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