Northwestern Press

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Oscar gold in 'Silver Linings'?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 by PAUL WILLISTEIN in Focus

"Silver Linings Playbook" is amazing, entertaining and profound.

Writer-Director David O. Russell draws from life experience to create a compassionate, funny and charming portrayal of Pat Solatano (Bradley Cooper), a young man with mental health problems who is trying to get his life back together.

He's released into the care of his Philadelphia area parents, Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro) and Dolores (Jacki Weaver). Pat Jr. only wants to get back with his estranged wife, Nikki. However, Pat Jr. meets a young woman, Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a widow who has her own problems.

Through an extraordinary set of ordinary circumstances: jogging, practicing for a dance competition and rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles football team, Pat Jr. and Tiffany bond and develop a deep friendship.

Swirling around them are family members and friends who, while seemingly normal, prove to have problems of their own, albeit ones that they are not even trying to deal with.

"Silver Linings Playbook" is about facing up to the truth of one's circumstances, beliefs and life choices. Life is not a game. It's all too real, tough and uncompromising.

Russell ("The Fighter," "I Heart Huckabees," "Three Kings"), an Oscar director nominee for "Silver Linings Playbook," has written an insightful, humorous and witty screenplay, an Oscar adapted screenplay nominee, based on a novel by Matthew Quick. Russell directs in a confrontational style, pitting characters against each other, to create effective conflict and drama.

Russell uses a washed-out color palette to represent the working-class lifestyle of his protagonists. The editing, also up for an Oscar, is intuitive, circumventing mere niceties of scene setup, trusting his audience's intelligence.

Bradley Cooper as Pat Jr. gives a remarkably transparent performance. Cooper goes from shut-down isolationism to frenetic reaction to contemplative stillness. If you only know Bradley Cooper from the two "Hangover" movies, you do not know Bradley Cooper. This is a fine performance, well-deserving of his Oscar actor nomination.

Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany is amazing. Lawrence plays tough and tender, wise and foolish, silly and smart. Lawrence has a dancer's grace and the wise face of a young Meryl Streep. Lawrence ("Winter's Bone," "The Hunger Games") had the right to say "I beat Meryl Streep" in winning the actress comedy-musical Golden Globe. She is an Oscar actress nominee.

Robert De Niro as Pat Sr., a superstitious Philadelphia Eagles football team fan, gives one of his best performances in years, showing us that the jokey comedies, "The Fockers" series, haven't ruined his acting chops. His performance anchors the film and deserves the Oscar supporting actor nomination.

There are fine smaller-role performances, including the delightful Jacki Weaver, an Oscar supporting actress nominee, as Pat Sr.'s long-suffering wife Dolores, the hilariously intense Chris Tucker as Pat's friend Danny, Anupam Kher as Pat's doctor, John Ortiz as Ronnie, Paul Herman as Randy and Julia Stiles as Randy's wife Veronica.

"Silver Linings Playbook," an Oscar picture nominee and the American Film Institute Movie of the Year, is a great film to see with a family member or friend or anyone in your life who doesn't always go by the playbook. The film may just help you discover in a fun and fascinating way that there's no penalty for the truth.

"Silver Linings Playbook," Rated R (Restricted. Under 17 Requires Accompanying Parent Or Adult Guardian) for language and some sexual content-nudity; Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance; Run Time: 2 hours, two minutes; Distributed by The Weinstein Company.

Credit Readers Anonymous: "Silver Linings Playbook," with assistance from the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania film commissions, was filmed in Lansdowne, Upper Darby, Norristown, Ridley Township, Ridley Park, Delaware County and Philadelphia.

Box Office, Jan. 18: "Mama" opened at No. 1, with $28.1 million, giving its star, Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain, two No. 1 films in a row, and dropping "Zero Dark Thirty," which also stars Chastain, to No. 2, $17.6 million, $55.9 million, five weeks.

"Silver Linings Playbook" got a huge bump from Jennifer Lawrence's actress comedy-musical Golden Globe and the film's expansion to wide release, leaping from No. 10 to No. 3, $11.4 million, $55.3 million 10 weeks;

4. "Gangster Squad," $9.1 million, $32.2 million, two weeks; 5. "Broken City," $9 million, opening; 6. "A Haunted House," $8.3 million, $30 million, two weeks; 7. "Django Unchained," $8.2 million, $138 million, four weeks; 8. "Les Miserables," $7.8 million, $130.3 million, four weeks; 9. "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," $6.4 million, $287.3 million, six weeks; 10. "The Last Stand," $6.3 million, opening

Unreel, Jan. 25:

"Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters," R Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Peter Stormare and Famke Janssen and other actors with difficult-to-pronounce names take a page from the Grimm classic in the fantasy horror film.

"Parker," R: Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez, Michael Chiklis and Nick Nolte star in director Taylor Hackford's new spin on the crime heist thriller.

"John Dies in the End," R: People sent back in time don't quite return as they were. Paul Giamatti, Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Clancy Brown and Bethlehem native Dan Roebuck star in the fantasy film.

Read previous movie reviews by Paul Willistein at the Times-News web site,, and hear them on "Lehigh Valley Art Salon," 6 - 6:30 p.m. Mondays, Lehigh Valley Community Public Radio, WDIY 88.1 FM, Email Paul Willistein pwillistein@ and on Facebook.