Directed by: David O. Russell
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Chris Tucker
The Silver Linings Playbook was so over hyped so over loved that I had a sense of just not wanting to be sucked in by it. The film is also of a genre that just doesn’t appeal to me. I am a film fan of the most hardcore degree, the most critical, so a genre built more on formula than any other is just a genre I have little respect for. But, now that the film is off the box office top 10 and I didn’t have to pay full ticket price I thought I’d give it a chance and see if it was worth the hype.
The Silver Linings Playbook is built completely on the classic formula of a romantic comedy. You could maybe argue that other genres that I do appreciate such as action films and horror are also built on predictable formula and you’d be right. The difference is that within those genres are tons of films that push the formula, reinvent it, and experiment with it. The romantic comedy genre of film though is less brave; that formula is built on mass lowest common denominator appeal so too many stretches in story telling is just taking too much of a chance at turning off the primary audience. There are those very few films within the genre that do make an attempt at doing something new and challenging but there are so few of them you can count them on two hands. I was hoping that Silver Linings Playbook would be one of those standout films. In a nutshell the film most definitely is not. This film is completely predictable from the first five minutes of the film. BTW, there will be spoilers here so if that’s an issue for you I’d stop reading now and watch the movie then come back.
Bradley Cooper plays a mentally disturbed man pulled from a facility by his mother who wants to help him restart his life. His mother may be the one character that understands Cooper’s character the most because her husband played by Robert De Niro is the one who passed on his own mental issues. So this poor woman has dealt with these problems for two generations. Pat (Cooper) is missing his ex-wife and his old life when he meets another mentally challenged woman played by Jennifer Lawrence. The two eventually hit it off in their own odd way and she agrees to help Pat reunite with his ex-wife in exchange for helping her win a dance competition. Tiffany (Lawrence) deals with her own eccentricities with her dancing, not that she’s particularly amazing at it, it just calms her. She agrees to deliver a letter to Pat’s ex once they begin working on a dance routine. At that moment you know that Pat will eventually be writing a letter to Tiffany and you won’t be surprised. As simplistic as the story is there are even issues that previous reviews have looked over; most notably that the “playbook” part of the film is just a throw away thing and actually gets lost in the story. The “silver linings” part ends up just being a plot tool with no real merit or impact.
Every single beat of this films’ arc including the relationships, and the dance competition is painfully predictable. I’m not someone who sits in a movie and tries to work things out as the movie progresses, I just tend to soak it all in and consider it after the closing credits. When a movie is just so on the nose that I’m slapped in the face with all of the big beats before they happen I feel insulted. There are literally no surprises in this film. That’s not to say that Silver Linings Playbook doesn’t work on some level though. Jennifer Lawrence won an Academy award for her performance in this film and she absolutely deserved the award. That award isn’t about the overall quality of the film it’s about a particular actor’s work within a film. Lawrence is charismatic and a joy to watch in the film. Bradley Cooper also puts in a solid performance, add to that a good show from Robert De Niro a fun soundtrack, and the surprising humor of Chris Tucker and you have a bad story that is elevated by some of its elements. It’s predictable kind of like eating chicken. You know what chicken tastes like and if you like it then this bird is well cooked. Silver Linings Playbook isn’t nearly a groundbreaking film in its genre but as one of a million other options it’s one of the better choices. The film is directed by David O. Russell and compared to the rest of his filmography he is slumming with this film. Check out some of his previous directing work such as I Heart Huckabees, Three Kings, and Spanking the Monkey.