Silver Linings Playbook: The Silver Lining of All of the Movies in 2012

Guys, I don’t know what to do with myself anymore. I keep seeing these potential award-winning films, and they just keep getting better and better. It’s getting to the point where I see them and then have a mental breakdown afterward trying to figure out where I’m going to place my bets. And I have to say, Silver Linings Playbook, which I saw last Thursday, really threw a wrench into this whole mix. And I don’t mean it threw a wrench like my boyfriend does after he’s been trying to get a nut off of the flux capacitor or whatever on his car for three hours. I mean it made me completely reconsider everything I’ve been thinking about the movies that have been nominated thus far.

Remember how I said in my Pitch Perfect review that I left that movie feeling really good? Yeah, well the same goes for Silver Linings Playbook, except this movie is more of a com-dram than a straight comedy, so that’s even more impressive in my Movie Feelings Playbook (See what I did there?). I feel like I’m going to turn into one of those annoyingly sycophantic moviegoers by referring this movie to everyone. But seriously, you can’t beat a movie like this. It’s absolutely perfect.

Here’s how The Weinstein Company describes the plot: “Life doesn’t always go according to plan. Pat Solatano (Bradley Cooper) has lost everything—his house, his job, and his wife. He now finds himself living back with his mother (Jacki Weaver) and father (Robert De Niro) after spending eight months in a state institution on a plea bargain. Pat is determined to rebuild his life, remain positive, and reunite with his wife, despite the challenging circumstances of their separation. All Pat’s parents want is for him to get back on his feet—and to share their family’s obsession with the Philadelphia Eagles football team. When Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a mysterious girl with problems of her own, things get complicated. Tiffany offers to help Pat reconnect with his wife, but only if he’ll do something very important for her in return. As their deal plays out, an unexpected bond begins to form between them, and silver linings appear in both of their lives.”

Silver Linings Playbook is definitely what I’d consider a “com-dram,” or comedy-drama. Although you won’t cry (or at least I hope you don’t), there are plenty of moments where your cheesy smile and laughter will fade, and you’ll begin to reflect on your own life in a moment of sad clarity. The movie is without a doubt predictable, but it’s not predictable in the sense that a Jennifer Aniston movie is predictable. Director David O. Russell doesn’t try to be inventive or shocking with his movie’s plot to make a statement (I’m looking at you, David Fincher). Instead, he goes for the happy ending without qualms because he has already gotten impressive performances out of all of his actors.

Not to mention, the beginning and middle parts of the movie already show us that life can be shitty, so it only makes sense that the story’s characters (and the audience) be rewarded with the silver lining that makes everything better. Quite frankly, I’m okay with this kind of predictable because, even though I knew Pat and Tiffany would end up together, it was incredibly refreshing to see characters who had suffered get some much-needed happy endings.

The main focus of the story is on Pat Solatano (Bradley Cooper) returning to his hometown of Philadelphia after spending eight months in a state institution for nearly killing a man he found having sex with his wife. Despite having worked out some of his issues in the institution, Pat comes home to a restraining order from his wife, unemployment, constant badgering by people who think he’s crazy, and an uncomfortable bed in the attic of his parents’ home. On top of that, he has to regularly attend therapy sessions as he suffers from bipolar disorder, which is illustrated throughout the movie with his constant ups and downs and random outbursts. While this might seem like it’s a total downer about someone struggling with a mental illness, the screenwriters manage to take a funny approach to the topic. When I say funny, it’s not that this movie mocks mental illness; rather, the writers find a heartfelt way to negate the social stigma of mental illness and open our eyes to the struggles that real people with mental illnesses face on a daily basis.

But it’s not just Pat’s bipolar disorder that we see in this movie. We also get a glimpse of severe depression with his love interest, Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), whose husband recently died, as well as obsessive-compulsive disorder with his father, Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro). Though each of their individual stories are depressing and not to be taken lightly, their individual quirks that result from their mental issues are almost endearing. Some of my favorite moments in which we saw these quirks? Pat throwing an Ernest Hemingway novel out of a window after he declares that it has an unhappy ending, Pat Sr. getting worked up when he realizes that one of the hundreds of white envelopes from his desk is missing, and Tiffany knocking all of the dishes off of the table at the diner when Pat says she’s crazier than he is. I think the reason I like these moments is because they’re very characteristic of so-called “crazed” behavior, yet the audience has gotten so comfortable with each character’s mental issues that these actions seem funny and not crazy.

As of now, Silver Linings Playbook is a huge deal in the awards season line-up. It’s received Best Ensemble, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actor nominations from the Screen Actors Guild, and Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Actress in the Comedy or Musical category, as well as Best Screenplay nominations from the Golden Globes. I have no doubt that it will take away a few awards (if not most) at both of those award ceremonies. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are also sure to receive Best Actor and Actress nominations for the Oscars, and I have a feeling Robert De Niro will receive a nomination for Best Supporting Actor, too.

You know, I’m not really a Bradley Cooper fan. I find him somewhat off-putting, but I loved him in this movie. Maybe it’s because, for once, he wasn’t playing the handsome lover or the handsome douche. Sure, he was still handsome in this movie, but he actually had character development this time beyond just his looks. He was irksome, intense, and completely lovable as Pat. Most of the movie, he had me both laughing and feeling anxious because he was just always babbling about something—getting his wife back, getting his job back, staying positive, etc. Have you ever met someone who’s really “on” all the time, and they’re always just in your face and wearing you out? Yeah, that’s how Cooper played Pat.

Like I said, I was laughing at how incredibly neurotic he was, but at the same time, he was physically making me feel anxious because his character’s intensity almost felt like it smothered you (which is good because that’s how the director clearly wanted you to feel with all of the close-up shots during Pat’s ramblings). It should also be mentioned that Cooper didn’t play Pat to be a complete jackass. Though Pat sometimes acted like a jackass and screwed himself over by acting out and losing his self-control, there was a true sincerity to his actions, which is why it was easy to feel sorry for him and root for him at the same time. Above all (and I can’t believe I’m saying this because he’s way older than her), his chemistry with Jennifer Lawrence, who plays his love interest, Tiffany, was pretty hot.

Speaking of Jennifer Lawrence, I have such a girl crush on her, so it may be hard for you (and even me) to take me seriously when I say that she nailed her role this movie. But seriously, she did. This is a young actress who can carry blockbusters, indie films, and award-nominated films. She can play young and old, comedic and dramatic. And she’s only 22. I almost forgot how young she is while watching Silver Linings Playbook. Her performance as Tiffany was mysterious, depressing, sexy, disturbed, and sassy all at once. The scene where she owns the absolute hell out of Robert De Niro’s Pat Sr. by telling him how the Philadelphia Eagles and Phillies won every time Pat hung out with her instead of him (as Pat Sr. was worried that the Eagles would lose if Pat was gone during the games) was nothing short of epic. And when you compare that scene with the much more disheartening scene where Tiffany tells Pat about how her husband, Tommy, died on the way home to reignite the intimate spark in their marriage, you see the true depth of her acting abilities.

It’s amazing how well Lawrence shifts between being funny, acting crazy, feeling heartbroken, and showing up all of the other characters in this movie. As soon as I read that she’d been nominated for her performance in this movie (which I found out before I actually saw the movie), I wasn’t surprised. Lawrence was previously nominated for Best Actress for Winter’s Bone in 2011, so it’s not like this is her first time being awesome. Although she’s going to have some serious and much more experienced competition in Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), Naomi Watts (The Impossible), and Marion Cotillard (Rust & Bone) for the Best Actress win, I have a feeling she’s the frontrunner and the favorite just from what I’ve read of both the critics and the Hollywood gossips. On top of that, she also has the support of The Weinstein Company, which never messes around. When they campaign for an actor, they mean business. And right now, Lawrence is the business.

All of the supporting characters in this movie were great (It’s nice to see Julia Stiles and Chris Tucker after such a long time), but I have to say Robert De Niro’s performance as Pat’s dad, Pat Sr., particularly stuck out for me. It’s strange to see that De Niro hasn’t been nominated for a film award since the 1990s or won since 1980 (for Raging Bull), even though he’s been one of the better male actors and fatherly characters in movies since the 1970s. I’m glad he finally got out of his recent shitty comedy streak with Little Fockers, Everybody’s Fine, and New Year’s Eve to return to the place where he belongs—the award-winning films. The way he clashed Pat Sr.’s obsessive-compulsive neuroses with Pat’s bipolar neuroses in this movie was just fantastic; in addition, he still managed to give off an air of the loving, protective, and firm father of a mentally-ill son.

I assume part of the reason I liked his character so much was because I related a lot to his obsessive-compulsive behaviors, as I, myself, have a mild obsessive-compulsive disorder. Watching him freak out over the missing envelope or worry about the Eagles losing because his son, his handkerchief, or his remotes weren’t in the right place at the right time was hilarious. I really hope De Niro gets an Oscar nomination for this role, as he was clearly overlooked for a Golden Globe nom, even though he received a SAG nom.

The only complaint I have is more a complaint due to my personal dislike of handheld camera work. I know that it gives the camera operator or director more freedom to move around with the actors in a particular setting, and it also makes the movie seem more down-to-earth and realistic, but I really can’t stand watching the result of someone’s arm shaking for an hour and a half.

Overall, Silver Linings Playbook is, without a doubt, the best movie of 2012 that I’ve seen. It’s heartfelt and depressing while still being entertaining. If you’ve ever wondered what a film that has all of its elements working together in a harmonious balance of perfection looks like, it would be Silver Linings Playbook.

The screenplay, the direction, the dialogue, the actors—everything here makes this movie a film you can’t miss. Bradley Cooper completely eliminates the bad taste in my mouth left from his characters in The HangoverWedding CrashersAll About Steve, and Valentine’s Day to deliver a truly sincere performance as Pat Solatano, a bipolar sufferer who wants to get his life back. And Jennifer Lawrence (who is one of my favorite young actresses), shows once again that she has the acting abilities to keep up with the likes of award-winning Robert De Niro, who also delivers his best performance in years, as well as the many seasoned actresses with whom she’ll be competing for the title of Best Actress.

Having seen this movie, I’m starting to think The Weinstein Company (which produced this film) is a major baller. Not that they haven’t always been, but they’ve won Best Picture for the last two years at the Academy Awards with The King’s Speech and The Artist (both of which were amazing), and I’m pretty sure they’re going for their third consecutive win with Silver Linings Playbook. I’ve told you how much I loved Argo, Lincoln, Moonrise Kingdom, and Les Misérables, but I feel like all of those films pale slightly in comparison to Silver Linings Playbook. Then again, with as many great films that are out this year, I could be saying this exact same thing about Silver Linings Playbook after I see Django Unchained and Zero Dark Thirty. Ugh, why does awards season have to be so awesome?

Silver Linings Playbook: A+

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