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Silver Linings Playbook

To be honest with you I’ve never been a big fan of David O. Russell.  Besides Christian Bale’s performance, I thought The Fighter was a sappy piece of garbage.  Three Kings was an OK film, and I Heart Huckabees was a complete piece of trash.  However, not only is Silver Linings Playbook his best film, it’s also easily one of the best films of the year, and also a giant leap forward for him as a filmmaker.

The film is based off the Matthew Quick book of the same name and follows Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) as a bi-polar man who is released to his family after a stint in a state facility.  He spent time there after snapping when he found his wife and a fellow teacher from his school in the shower together.  He almost beat the man to death and avoided jail-time after finding out he was mentally unstable.

He’s entrusted into the care of his father (Robert DeNiro) and mother (Jacki Weaver).  His one job is to stay on his meds, go to therapy, and stay away from his wife…he has a lot of trouble doing any of those things.  The scariest thing about Pat’s situation is that on the surface Pat seems like a normal guy.  We feel as if Pat is just misunderstood, but he truly has problems.  Bradley Cooper plays the part as if your average guy could be stuck in his situation.  He’s fantastic straddling that line between craziness and sanity.

Pat’s world is turned upside down a bit when he meets Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence).  Tiffany tries to befriend Pat.  The thing is they are both lost souls.  She recently lost her police officer husband in a horrific accident, and found that the only way she could cope with it is by sleeping with everyone in town….everyone that is except Pat, because Pat wants his wife back.  Pat knows she will come back to him.  Pat will do anything to make her realize it.

I will say this about David O. Russell’s films.  He builds everything around his characters, making every part shine in its own way.  The acting here is beyond top notch.  It’s Oscar caliber.  Jennifer Lawrence is almost a shoe-in for winning best actress here, and Bradley Cooper shows that he’s got some decent range here as well.  Even DeNiro, who I felt pretty much gave up dramatic acting almost 20 years ago, shines as Pat’s father. A man who has no idea how to relate to his son, except by getting him to watch the Eagles games with him.  He believes Pat is his good luck charm, and the Eagles can’t lose if they’d just watch the games together.

Pat and Tiffany try to find a way to repair themselves, and they learn to do that through….dancing?  Yes, dancing.  It gives Pat something to focus on.  It gives him a routine to stick to, and he begins to trust Tiffany in that process.  We root for Pat the entire time, but can’t help but laugh at him for his ridiculous behavior.

Philadelphia plays a large role in the film, and especially the love of football the people of the city have.  It’s a volatile relationship much like many of the relationships between the characters in the film.  No matter how much you hate your family, or can’t seem to relate to them, you’ll always have the Eagles to bind you together.

Russell directs the film as if it’s a living schizophrenic entity.  The camera wavers and loses its attention span often, just as Pat does.  As Pat begins to pull it together, the film begins to as well.  It’s  a smart direction in probably the most whip-smart film of the year.

Grade: A+