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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 23, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 47
Above the clouds
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Above the clouds

Funny, honest Silver Linings Playbook a heartfelt stunner

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
Now showing


There is something euphoric about a movie that consistently hits all the right beats even as it teeters on the brink of outright chaos. It's a high-wire act - a feat of balancing that allows the viewer to feel something akin to an adrenaline-filled contact high watching it succeed, every facet bringing joy and happiness because the knowledge that it could all come crashing to earth at any second, leaving all the goodwill shattered into a million pieces, is constantly there.

That is the feeling generated by Silver Linings Playbook. David O. Russell's sensational adaptation of Matthew Quick's novel borders on extraordinary. More than that, much like two of the filmmaker's past successes, Three Kings and The Fighter, he's taken a relatively tired genre - in this case, romantic comedy - and revitalized it, making it feel fresh, new, and entirely original.

The story revolves around former Philadelphia high-school substitute teacher Pat Solatano (Bradley Cooper). He's just been released from a Baltimore mental hospital into the care of his mother, Dolores (Jacki Weaver), who has promised the court that she and her husband, Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro), will watch over him and make sure he follows the orders of his psychiatrist, Dr. Patel (Anupam Kher).

DOUBLE WHAMMY
See, Pat has anger management issues rivaling those of his father but at the same time had been living with undiagnosed bipolar disorder, the combination of the two leading him to a rather startling bit of violence when he discovered his wife, Nikki (Brea Bee), was having an affair. After spending time in the hospital the younger Solatano has decided to transform his life and make something positive out of this negative, and even though Nikki has gotten a restraining order he's certain that if he can prove he's truly changed, she will give him a second chance.

That's the setup. The crux of the movie, however, revolves around Pat's relationship with his parents and with the arrival of free spirit Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who is also dealing with mental health and sexual addiction issues after the death of her policeman husband. The two of them forge a fragile friendship based on ever-evolving truths (which might not be wholly honest). There's a connection there, something intimate, both needing the other to ease a pain that neither is willing to admit exists.

Where things go from there are hardly surprising. What is, however, is just how magnificently Russell juggles all of this, making everything that happens seem natural and honest even though in actuality events are as contrived as any romantic comedy that's ever seen the light of day. The dialogue is whip-smart and invigorating, the interactions between all of the characters is lived-in and true, and everything builds to a freewheeling and energetic coda that in theory has no business working but in reality had me wanting to stand up in the middle of the theater and cheer.

AWESOME ACTING
The actors are all-in and then some, Cooper's performance bordering on revelatory. Pat, speaking his mind with no thought to the consequences, unable to hide his disdain for certain ideas and thoughts, puts forth traits that are unlikable as all get-out. Yet somehow, someway, Cooper, speaking 2,000 words a minute and barely able to catch his breath between syllables, makes this guy someone to root for and care about, his journey toward a silver lining one I wanted to applaud.

Equally magnificent, and almost certain to win a Best Actress Oscar (coupled, in some ways I would think, with her equally complicated, if entirely different, turn in The Hunger Games), is Lawrence. Her Tiffany at first appears to be nothing more than a male fantasy, a romantic comedy figment of the imagination that could never exist in the real world. But Lawrence grounds her, makes her flesh, and gives her a soul, revealing intimate layers of pain and suffering that mask the young woman's innate longing to make a connection beyond the physical. It's an incredible, freewheeling performance, and one that gets better and better the more I think about it.

I could go on, especially as it pertains to Weaver and De Niro (both are excellent), but I'm sure at this point you get the idea. Russell has proven himself to be a master storyteller, finding the heart and soul of a piece while grounding into a tactile reality that is immediate as it is true. Silver Linings Playbook made me feel excitedly alive as I walked out of the theater, reveling in the complicated emotional nuances of its main characters in a way I could relate to and understand. Plainly and simply put, it's a seriously great film.

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Northwest News
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