Writer-director David O. Russell has a great touch when it comes to working with words and actors. He is best known for Three Kings, the Persian Gulf War film starring George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg, and The Fighter, also starring Wahlberg, in which Russell directed virtual unknown Melissa Leo to an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Now he’s back with Silver Linings Playbook, which has been showered with nine Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay, as well as nods for all four of the lead performers. And that’s the first time in many years that all four leads have been nominated for the same film.
Silver Linings Playbook gives Bradley Cooper his best role yet as Pat, a young man with emotional problems who has just come home from eight months in a mental hospital. He’s living with mom and dad and trying to cope. Over dinner at Pat’s best friend’s house, he meets Tiffany, played by Jennifer Lawrence, who has already nailed a Golden Globe award for this performance. She has her fair share of problems and struggles, and is more than a little anti-social.
The film is not perfect. The first twenty minutes or so may have you wondering if you really want to get to know these people. But once it gets going, it’s fine. The ending seems Hollywood contrived and you can predict the outcome before it arrives. But that’s ok. For the film that it is, that ending is required to put all the pieces together. In addition to Cooper and Lawrence, there are spectacular performances by Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver as mom and dad. It’s also nice to see Chris Tucker back on the screen after a five-year absence. Everyone in the cast is uniformly terrific, and gives new meaning to the term “ensemble cast.”
There’s a nice score by Danny Elfman with none of the echoes of his work for Tim Burton. It also makes use of some well chosen pop tunes along the way, especially one by Johnny Mathis, and two from The Dave Brubeck Quartet.
As previously noted, Russell has a way with words and the dialogue is razor sharp and quite funny in places. It’s also nice to watch the Pat and Tiffany characters as the grapple with their problems both individually and each on the behalf of the other. That predictable ending I mentioned earlier will give you a nice case of the “warm fuzzies.”
Of all the Oscars that Silver Linings Playbook is up for, the only one I feel certain that it will win is for Best Actress, Jennifer Lawrence. If you’ve only seen her in action films like X-Men and Hunger Games, this performance will be a revelation for you. And maybe even make you want to rent Winter's Bone, her first major film a couple of years ago, and her first Oscar nomination. Jennifer Lawrence is not a movie star…she’s an ACTRESS!
The R-rated Silver Linings Playbook is now showing everywhere. See it with someone you like.