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Silver Linings Playbook is a remarkable movie. David O. Russell has created a fully-realized, wonderful world full of honest characters and real problems, yet at the same time it celebrates life in all its quirky ways while recognizing what makes movies special.

Rarely has a film been able to follow the basic structure of a romantic comedy-drama, while exceeding expectations at every turn; embracing the cliché yet staying true to the characters and story. While the story structure may be familiar, the execution is anything but. Powerful performances and keen direction aside, it’s the characters and their issues which shine, as the emotion of the characters is front and center in a film that’s equal parts hilarious and heart-wrenching.

Based on the novel of the same name by Matthew Quick, Silver Linings Playbook tells the story of Pat Solitano (Cooper) as he is let out of mental institution after an eight-month stay for a violent crime. We meet Pat as he’s trying to pick back up his life and marriage, living with his Philadelphia Eagles-loving father, Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro) and mother, Dolores (Jacki Weaver). Pat’s lost weight and has a new, positive mindset in life – seeking the silver lining in everything.

Determined to win back his wife, Nikki (Brea Bee), Pat dedicates his time to this sole purpose. Yet when he attends a dinner with his friends, Veronica (Julia Stiles) and Ronnie (John Ortiz), he unexpectedly meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), Veronica’s sister. Tiffany is just as damaged as Pat, and Jennifer Lawrence injects light, warmth and power into the film with her performance. Lawrence has had more than her fair share of success in the past few years, first with an Oscar-nomination for Winter’s Bone, and of course her more mainstream roles in films such as The Hunger Games and X-Men: First Class, but it’s here where she’s most mature, utterly in control of a character who is anything but.

Just as Tiffany is consistently teetering on the edge, so is the film. David O. Russell operates on the brink of chaos; a perfect blend of wit, heartbreak, joy, despair, and every emotion in between. As adept as Silver Linings Playbook is from a story standpoint, the film is also as visually groundbreaking as many of Russell’s past films. He never frames a shot quite right, consistently shifting the camera in new and exciting ways, getting to the emotional core of each scene in the process.

Despite a rather telegraphed final act, Silver Linings Playbook is continually authentic in its characters’ stories. While at times cliché, David O. Russell understands how to navigate around this as both a writer and a director. Russell is the maestro of each scene, perfectly blending the unexpected wit and emotion of its characters, while recognizing the appeal and comfort of telling a story that is ultimately uplifting.

As if two Oscar-worthy performances from Cooper and Lawrence wasn’t enough, De Niro gives his most powerful performance in some time, with one particularly emotional turn which gets right to the core of what makes Silver Linings Playbook so powerful: a balance of the uplifting and the emotional. Jacki Weaver holds her own opposite De Niro as she proves her Oscar-nominated turn in Animal Kingdom was no fluke. Even Chris Tucker gives a solid performance as Pat’s friend from the institution, Danny.

Fully embodying all the humor, sadness, anger, and love of its characters, Silver Linings Playbook is that rare breed of film that is laid out as a quintessential romantic comedy-drama, while subverting the rote expectations of a typical romantic comedy. With an absolutely stunning, hilarious, soul-wrenching cast, led wonderfully by Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, and the virtuosic direction of David O. Russell, you’ll be moved, entranced, and delighted throughout.

Grade: A+

Rated: R (for language and some sexual content/nudity)

Silver Linings Playbook opens in theaters on November 21, 2012.

  • http://twitter.com/KellyMegan10 Megan Kelly

    I’ve already seen this film twice and I haven’t laughed that hard in a movie in a long time! Great review, great film!

  • Gary65

    To say that I am excited to see this film does not even begin to cover it :D

  • Kate

    I liked the film overall; great performances. My only problem is the Tiffany character…I wish she had a well-defined arc of her own that didn’t involve chasing after Pat for the whole movie. She only serves to help the hero on his own question for self realization. Watching her adapt herself to him (spewing football game scores, really?!) was frustrating, because I really liked Jennifer’s portrayal of her…I just have some problems with how she’s written and used in the movie.

  • savannah

    Ive seem it twice and both times were prerelease and it was worth it both times :) love it.

  • SonickedYou

    One of the best films I’ve seen this year, go see it guys! Watch Jennifer Lawrence earn her Oscar!

  • SunWizard94

    Unfortunately, I do not fully agree with this review (and that’s why forums exist, yay!). While I do think that the film was fun and easy going, I also thing it had an important job to do and it failed. The first half of the film painted an incredibly vivid picture of what it means to live with an emotional disorder, whether it was Bipolar or Depression. It captured the essences in an incredibly honest way, while also maintaining a humorous, romantic tone. However, about 3/4 of the way through, it was as if the director remembered this needed to be a rom-com and decided to tie up all of the loose ends, much like a traditional rom-com. I just don’t think this was needed. The film could have ended in a way that it stayed grounded to reality, showing that yes, this couple was going to give it a go and try to have a relationship while also acknowledging the fact that it would be incredibly difficult. That most relationships are hard, let alone those that have added layers to deal with. Personally, a flat B would have been my grade. But I tend to grade on a much harsher scale.

  • http://twitter.com/CodeyWhite Codey White

    After seeing most of the nominated films this year; SLP is def my favorite! Although maybe not the best of the year. This film pushes past the genre stereotypes with the amazing performances behind and in front of the camera.

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