Friday, November 16, 2012

 

Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook Is it possible to make a romantic comedy that is both heartfelt and funny even if its characters have mental health issues? The answer is yes if you see director David O. Russell's crowd pleasing "Silver Linings Playbook" (USA 2012 | 122 min.). Its raw emotions, high energy, and earnest performance make you not only overlook any underneath familiar formula often found in a typical romantic comedy, but they also bring you closer to its likable characters, even they are not perfect.

The film opens at a mental hospital where substitute teacher Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) has been confined for eight months. Now he is going back home to live with his mother (Jacki Weaver) and father (Robert De Niro), but without his house and his wife Nikki. His mental health facility stay is partially due to his bipolar disorder, and partially due to the fallout with his wife who is protected by a restraining order.

Pat is still madly in love with Nikki and he is determined to win her back. After Pat meets a straight talking widow Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), she agrees to help him only if he agrees to dance with her in a dance competition. The intriguing tension between Pat and Tiffany adds more drama to the topsy-turvy farce in Pat's family.

Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook

Although Pat is mentally ill, the film portrays him as a focused and self-disciplined guy—his only goal is to get back together with his wife. He seems quite normal and even nicer than many regular people in reality, except he runs in a garbage bag and has trouble to control his temper sometimes. This image of Pat is very crucial to the film's success. Imagine that if he were obnoxious and crazy, any romance involving him would have not been sexy and he would not be well-liked.

Materials like this are too easy to fall into a routine romantic comedy trap that is often neither funny nor romantic. However, director David O. Russell magically tiptoes around the trap and lets his characters develop and be felt by the audience, in a very fast pace. With the terrific performance from a superb ensemble cast, all the flaws in the plot, based on a novel by Matthew Quick, can be forgiven. (Dance competition? Really?)

As in his previous film "The Fighter" (USA 2010), the relationship between father and son is brilliantly crafted by director David O. Russell. Robert De Niro is excellent playing Pat's endearing, funny, obsessive-compulsive gambling father, with an equally wonderful Jacki Weaver as his sidekick.

But the center of the film is the relationship between Pat and Tiffany, which is quirky, touching, delightful, and outstandingly performed by two beautiful actors that actually have a great chemistry on screen regardless how mentally troubled as they are labeled.

In the end, this is an enjoyable film that is funny and warm, sometimes even romantic. And it makes bipolar look sexy when it's played by "Sexiest Man Alive."

"Silver Linings Playbook," a Weinstein Company release, opens on Friday, November 16, 2012 at Bay Area theaters.

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