There have been a few films I missed out on that likely would’ve taken up a few spots on my top ten list last year, and Silver Linings Playbook was definitely one of them. There’s good reason why this film took the Academy Awards by storm in the form of eight nominations (six of which were major category noms), and those reasons will become crystal clear to those who haven’t seen the film once they pick it up on Blu-ray or DVD – and you definitely should pick it up.
Silver Linings Playbook is a romantic comedy, which focuses on two characters that aren’t your usual Hollywood rom-com cut-and-paste duo. While there’s a rough structure of your typical romantic comedy, there’s so much more to this story and the characters within it that it really makes the film stand out against any big studio release from that genre in recent years.
The story follows Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper), a former teacher who lost his job, his wife and his life as a whole when he caught his wife Nikki (Brea Bee) cheating on him and decided that beating the man sleeping with her half to death was a valid option in how to deal with the situation. The film picks up eight months later, with Pat being released from the mental institution that he was ordered into by the State for his crimes after it was found out that he suffered from an undiagnosed bi-polar disorder.
In agreement with the courts, Pat must move back home with his parents, Dolores and Pat Sr. (Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro respectively) and attend weekly therapy sessions to make sure he’s on the right track. Pat is in high spirits when he leaves the institution, believing fully that he’s changed for the better and he will quickly win back his wife, his old job and get his life back to the way it was before.
The way he plans to do this is by living by the belief that if you stay positive, everybody has a shot at a silver lining. Pat’s silver lining is to get his old life back and he hopes to do that by continuing to get fit, and becoming a more selfless person (two things his wife always nagged him about). Of course, Pat’s father tries to make him understand that Nikki sold their old house, and reminds him that she’s got a restraining order on him; though Pat will have none of it and believes that his new take on life will help him win her back.
However, not long after Pat’s released, a fork in the road appears in the form Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a young woman with enough problems and emotional repression to easily go head to head with anything Pat can bring to the table. The two instantly click, albeit in their own quirky ways where neither actually outright pursues the other. Instead the two choose to keep their feelings at arms length so to not be so quickly scorned once more, with each focusing on their own reasons and motivations for opening the doors to this potential friendship in the first place.
First and foremost, the chemistry between Cooper and Lawrence is absolutely electric. The two play off one another perfectly, and whenever they’re on screen together everything they say and do just feels completely natural and real. It’s unfortunate that this was such a strong year in the Best Actor category – with Daniel Day Lewis was pretty much a lock from day one in the eyes of most – because Cooper is just brilliant. I remember watching him years ago on Alias and thinking, There’s a guy who will hopefully get a big break down the line, because he just has this natural charisma about him which was apparent even then. While he’s more than proven himself in recent years, his work here is that rare form of artistry that puts him in a prestigious league of actors at the moment.
Now when it comes to Lawrence, 2012 proved to be one of those years where she starred in one of the worst films of the year (House at the End of the Street), as well as one of the best. While her work in House wasn’t abysmal, the film surely was and even her top tier talent wasn’t near enough to salvage it on any level. In Silver Linings Playbook she proves just how versatile she is, taking control of all the material she’s given to work with and completely owning it. She was the lone winner on Oscar night when it came to Playbook, taking home the Best Actress statue, and at just 22 years of age she’s proven why she’ll be an A-list star for many years to come.
On the supporting front this film is crammed with talent, and none of it ever feels wasted. Both De Niro and Weaver received Best Supporting nods for their work in the film, and deservingly so. De Niro nails it as a father with his own personal issues who tries to understand his son’s illness while also ignoring any of his own problems in the process. Weaver plays the loving mother who tries to keep her emotionally stunted family glued together beautifully, and both have great chemistry together as well. In fact, the entire ensemble cast has fantastic chemistry, which really helps make it easy for the viewer to become completely engrossed in the story from start to finish.
Another quick mention on the supporting front is Chris Tucker, who makes his first appearance in a movie since 2007’s Rush Hour 3. Now as much as I enjoy the Rush Hour series, and I’m aware that the payday he received for those films makes it so that he never has to work again if he so chooses, here’s hoping Tucker decides to venture out into the more comedic drama side of Hollywood, as he really delivers some great work any time he’s on the screen.
Also of note is the fantastic work done by writer/director David O. Russell (The Fighter) who adapted the screenplay from Matthew Quick’s novel of the same name. Russell did so because he was looking to work on something that he and his son could relate with in terms of content, and Silver Linings Playbook happened to be something that hit close to home for both of them. Russell has a keen eye, and a wonderfully fluent shooting style that really captured the ever-changing mindset of the characters involved in the film.
Silver Linings Playbook is a must-see romantic comedy that focuses on topics and illnesses that usually aren’t presented in this sort of light. The film is laugh out loud funny many times over, and the characters are easy to fall in love with. This is a film that doesn’t require multiple viewings, but it deserves them.
The audio and video transfer for the film is perfect. While not a technically driven film, the picture quality brought forward to Blu-ray looks outstanding, with no distracting contrasts or washed out looks at any time. The audio transfer is also spot on; with the dialogue edit coming through extremely clear, and the same goes for the soundtrack, sound effects and overall mix.
Deleted Scenes – There’s almost half an hour of deleted scenes, though unlike many other deleted scenes, these ones are worth checking out for fans of the film. While the pacing and overall structure of the story works as is, these are still worth checking out.
Silver Linings Playbook: The Movie That Became a Movement – This is another feature that runs at just under 30 minutes in length, and sees many of the cast and crew talking about the film, the characters, mental illness and such. It’s definitely worth watching for fans of the film.
Dance Rehearsal – This featurette runs at under 90 seconds in length and is a clip of Cooper and Lawrence rehearsing for the final dance number in the film.
Going Steadicam with Bradley Cooper – This is another brief featurette which sees Cooper try and be a cameraman.
Q&A Highlights – Here’s a feature that mixes multiple Q&A sessions that see different actors and crew members touch on various questions throughout the festival circuit. The piece runs at 27 minutes in length and is worth checking out if you’re a fan of Q&A sessions or want to get a more in-depth view into the film and reasoning behind certain aspects of it.
Learn to Dance Like Pat & Tiffany – This feature is just under 12 minutes long and sees dance choreographer Mandy Moore (not the singer) teach the viewer the dance steps involved in the climactic scene at the end of the film.
Silver Linings Playbook is a superbly crafted romantic comedy that’s both romantic in its own quirky ways, and downright hilarious more than one would expect. Cooper and Lawrence have an electric onscreen chemistry that really sells their romance, and their brilliant acting abilities help sell everything else. Put this one in your “must own” pile immediately.
The Weinstein Company Presents Silver Linings Playbook. Written and Directed by: David O. Russell. Based off the Novel “Silver Linings Playbook” by: Matthew Quick. Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker. Running time: 122 minutes. Rating: 14A. Released on Blu-ray: April 30, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.