When the Academy Award nominations were announced earlier this month SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK did something no other film had done for over three decades. It earned nods in all seven major categories for which it was eligible: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay. The most shocking thing of all, though, was that it deserved every single one.
David O. Russell has slowly yet consistently become one of the freshest and most mature voices in American cinema. From FLIRTING WITH DISASTER to THREE KINGS to I HEART HUCKABEES to THE FIGHTER his films have stretched over many, very different genres, but they all share one very important thing in common: a big, unapologetic heart.
His newest effort as writer and director SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK is no exception. The film stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as Pat and Tiffany: two heartbroken, mentally unstable adults trying to fight through their problems as best they can. That, of course, is easier said than done. Pat is still fixated on his wife, who he caught having an affair and subsequently beat up her lover. That action caused him to be committed to a mental hospital. Now he’s out and wants to rekindle an obviously unfixable love. Everyone around him knows, but he still holds out hope. Tiffany is still grieving over her dead husband. Their situations may be different, but their frustrated feelings are not.
This sounds like a set up for a very intense, gritty drama, but Russell is a much smarter filmmaker than conforming to generic devices. Instead he laces his film with biting, honest humor and heart that allows his characters to break free of the conventions and stereotypes that restrict so many similar characters we’ve seen countless times on-screen.
These are two people with deep-rooted mental issues, but that doesn’t mean they have to succumb to them. Instead they try to deal with and overcome them. They figure out that it’s easier to do it together. And it’s this, Russell’s ability to make their relationship about something more than romance, something deeper than sex, that’s the reason his movie soars.
It also doesn’t hurt that Cooper and Lawrence both knock it out of the park. The former’s work here has forever erased his earlier frat boy image and makes it clear that he is a marvelous actor. Lawrence, a few years removed from her career turn in WINTER’S BONE, has delivered on a giant promise. She will no doubt become one of her generation’s all-time greats.
It’s only fitting that the rest of the cast matches them. Robert De Niro as Pat’s gambling, OCD father and Jacki Weaver as his loving and supportive mother are exceptional. It’s great to see De Niro back at the top of his form and Weaver, the Australian actress who broke into the American film scene her performance in 2010’s ANIMAL KINGDOM, is brilliant in a role that could’ve easily been a throwaway. Rounding out the great cast is Chris Tucker, Shea Whigham, John Ortiz, Julia Stiles and Anupam Kher. Each one makes their limited screen time memorable. (R.J. LaForce)
Now SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, the year’s best, most honest and now most honored comedy, comes back to the Village.