365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About

3Dec/120

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Silver Linings Playbook was a great movie that I most likely would not have seen had I done a bit more research ahead of time. I have known for months now that Jennifer Lawrence is a candidate, if not the favorite, for this year's Best Actress Academy Award and that Bradley Cooper could possibly snag one of the five nominations in the Best Actor category. The movie itself might land a spot in the Best Picture category, though, I would think, it would have little chance of winning. So the Oscar buzz was one reason that got me to the theater. The other was that the movie was centered around mental illnesses and broken relationships. Those movies often, but not always, engross me. I saw drama and comedy as words associated with this movie. Perhaps naively, I did not see romantic comedy. While there was a bit of drama and some attempts at comedy (which I personally found to be weak), this slowly but surely turned into a romance. By the movie's conclusion, I was actually very, very okay with that. Though flawed at times, it came together nicely and felt fairly original to me. If there are 10 movies that will be nominated for Best Picture this year, I think Silver Linings Playbook will and should be one of them.

Bradley Cooper (The Hangover, Limitless)  is slowly creeping up my favorite actors list. He is nowhere close to being in that exclusive top 10 actors list. In fact, he's probably not even in the top 25. But I enjoyed him in The Hangover movies and I was really impressed with his performance in Limitless. He stunk in The A-Team, but the was mostly because The A-Team was a terrible movie. Nobody in that movie benefited from its existence. In Silver Linings Playbook, Cooper plays Pat, a bipolar, yet upbeat man who we meet in a mental institution. He has been institutionalized for the past 8 months after beating a colleague of his nearly to death after he catches him having sex with his wife in his bedroom shower. Despite the wishes of his doctors, Pat is released to his caring, yet cautious, mother Delores (Jacki Weaver - Animal Kingdom, The Five-Year Engagement). When he arrives home, we learn that his father Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro - Raging Bull, Taxi Driver) was not made aware of his wife's plan. Pat Sr. is a bit of a mess himself, but has himself more together than his son. He is an addicted gambler who has some obsessive compulsive disorder tendencies, especially when it comes to his beloved Philadelphia Eagles. Whatever rituals seem to work, whether it's wearing the same shirt each Sunday or placing the remote controls in a certain way, that's what Patrick Sr. does. The love for his wife is evident. The love for his son is present, but it isn't perfect. He doesn't know how to talk to his son in a way that provides real connection. Pat Sr. is a kooky guy.

The main focus of the story is getting Pat Jr.'s life back on track. He is determined to get his wife back, despite the fact that he has a 500 yard restraining order against him. He is more than persistent though. He is obsessive. He reads all of the books that are on the high school syllabus of the course she teaches. He does his best to stay out of trouble with the law because he knows anything he does will get back to her via a police report. He tries to get in to the best physical shape of his life by running each day (while wearing a plastic trash bag to help him sweat more) while trying his best to avoid "trigger points", things that will set him off. Pat Jr. his mandatory meetings with his psychiatrist, but doesn't want to take his medication.

Along the way, he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence - The Hunger Games, Winter's Bone).  Tiffany is the younger sister of Veronica (Julia Stiles - Save the Last Dance, The Bourne Identity). While Veronica seems to have everything together, Tiffany's life is a complete mess. She's a young widow who has dealt with the death of her husband by sleeping with so many people in her office that she got herself fired. She's developed a nasty reputation around town as a result of her actions. Veronica and husband Ronnie (John Ortiz - Public Enemies, American Gangster) have a plan to set Pat and Tiffany up. The two are like oil and water though. When off his medication, Pat has absolutely no filter between his brain and his mouth while Tiffany is quick to jump the gone and draw her own conclusions based on the comments and behaviors of others.

In any case, Tiffany devises a plan in which she will deliver a letter to his wife (since he isn't allowed any contact with her nor is he allowed within 500 feet of her) if he will be her partner in an upcoming dance competition. Reluctantly, Pat agrees. It really is his only chance of any sort of connection with his wife. So this odd ball couple does what it needs to do to keep each other's promises and along the way strike up a friendship, though a bizarre one at that. Both were not just in need of just a friend, but some sort of visual connection with someone else out there in the world who seemed as messed up as they were. Both have been prescribed just about every medication out there. They do have that connection and it feels like that connection is enough to form a solid base for a relationship.

The movie isn't perfect, but it's good. In this particular movie I think I can sense a few more flaws than maybe the average person can detect. I think part of that has to do with the time limitations. I'm actually quite curious to read the book by Matthew Quick that the movie was based off of. I would like to see how he slowed down the parts that went too fast in the movie. There were a lot of minor side stories which added some comedic elements to the film, but also took away from its core. I would have liked the film to focus on Pat Jr. and his relationships with those other characters, but I didn't as much care about the relationships those other characters had with each other.

 

***Spoiler Alert***

Director David O'Russell (The Fighter, Three Kings) does a very great job of distinguishing what Pat Jr. is like when he is off his medication verses when he is on his medication, but assumes too much. There are enough events to show how out of control and unpredictable Pat can be when he is off his medication. We do see him take his medication after a series of events that forced Pat to realize he just wasn't okay without his medication. The problem was, we only saw him take the medicine once. We did then see him slowly get better and his mood swings minimize. But it would have been so great to see a good day, followed by taking the medication, followed by another good day. Pat Jr. goes from being a mental wreck and having no real control of his life to somebody, by then end of the movie, who was not perfect, but was much more stable. Show us that the medication is working. If literally looked down for five seconds in the movie, we would have missed his first medication intake.

The whole movie takes place from about early October until Christmas and, for me, that's not enough time for him to balance everything out that he needs to balance out. Stabilizing a person with a mental disorder is a long process. O'Russel knew he was short on time and had to wrap up the movie in a way that would appease his viewers. I liked what he did. I just thought he rushed it a bit. Again, there are many others out there who maybe aren't as close to a situation like this as I am and could totally accept the time frame for which how everything happened. I'm skeptical on that part though. He's not the same lost man who he was at the beginning and there just aren't enough explanations as of why.

***End spoiler***

A good film overall that will get lots of nominations this awards season. Some great individual performances. Lawrence will get nominated, which she probably deserves. De Niro will get nominated. And Cooper might even get some votes.

Plot 10/10
Character Development 7.5/10
Character Chemistry 7.5/10
Acting 9/10
Screenplay 9/10
Directing  7/10
Cinematography 8/10
Sound 8/10
Hook and Reel 10/10
Universal Relevance 10/10
88%

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