Before I get into the meat and potatoes of this review, I want to take a moment to explain why exactly I feel the need to write this less than timely, and some would argue not quite right for the site, review. I am a rather fanatical comic book nerd and I also love video games and movies, however, I am quite the cinema nerd. I really love well crafted movies and will often drive nearly an hour to the closest art theatre to check them out. Since cinema is one of the things I geek out over, I believe that it is appropriate for me to occasionally write reviews of movies that are more aligned to that category. The reason I am doing this review so late is because I have told so many people about SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK and none of them seem to care about it or have an interest in it, which makes me sad since it is one of the best movies I have seen in a long time.
David O. Russell (THE FIGHTER) has been making movies for almost two decades, and he seems to just get better and better at it. His latest offering is SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK and it’s certainly arguable that it’s his finest film yet. The movie focuses on Pat, a relatively young man who struggles to put his life back together after suffering a psychotic episode and being institutionalized after he caught his wife cheating on him. This is no easy task when you are living in a neighborhood full of mental triggers and with a father who is also less than balanced. Despite his positive attitude and dedication he shows little improvement, that is until he encounters Tiffany, a widow who also struggles with mental instability. The two form an unlikely friendship as they trade favors in an effort to improve their lives.
The cinematic brilliance of SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK isn’t that it has impressive camera work or a grandiose style, rather that the cinematography perfectly compliments and illuminates what the characters are going through. I know and have known many people who suffer from some sort of mental illness, and never have I seen that struggle so well captured on film than in this movie. From the chaotic quick cuts and scene skips of the flashbacks to the discombobulated feeling the camerawork gives off when Pat is going into one of his episodes, it really evokes the feeling of not being in control. Beyond the great portrayal of mental struggles, Russell also does a great job of capturing more common life interactions. There is a diner scene early on in the movie where the camera is just as effective as the actors at portraying what is going on. Russell uses over the shoulder shots to show how one character is reacting to another and then brings them both into frame when they are more engaged with each other. While this is just one example, Russell uses thoughtful, but not flashy, directing to really convey interpersonal interactions throughout the movie and in doing so creates one of the most real feeling movies I have seen in years.
The directing isn’t the only thing that’s fantastic as SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK boasts a superb ensemble cast. Bradley Cooper (THE HANGOVER) really shows off his acting chops as Pat; he is so real as a man who wants to be in complete control but keeps losing it that it’s hard to equate that this actor is the same one who did THE A-TEAM and THE HANGOVER. While I do enjoy Jennifer Lawrence (THE HUNGER GAMES) in her more blockbuster movies, it’s nice to see her return to something more serious. Lawrence tackles the role of Tiffany, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the result. Tiffany is a strong willed character who is prone to mood swings with occasional moments of extreme vulnerability. Lawrence takes to this role like a duck to water and she is an absolute treat in every scene. Robert De Niro (KILLER ELITE) plays Pat’s father, Pat Sr., and he nails it. Pat Sr. is an overbearing, superstitious bookie who, like Pat, has a tendency to snap and go into a fit of rage. These extremes are tempered by the softer edge of a father concerned for his son, albeit not quite as concerned as he is for himself. So often these days it feels like De Niro is just playing De Niro, but he really brings Pat Sr. to life and makes you love and hate this misguided father in a difficult situation. Equally impressive is Jacki Weaver (ANIMAL KINGDOM) as Pat’s mother Dolores. I must admit that I have no familiarity with Weaver’s body of work, but from what I have seen here I would like to see more of her. Dolores is a mother who clearly loves and cares for her son, but doesn’t quite know how to help him with his problems, add to that the fact that she has to take care of Pat Sr., a man who is as demanding as Pat is unstable, and you have a woman who is constantly trying to keep things together when all they want to do is fall apart. Weaver is wonderful in this role, bringing so much emotion, fragility, and confusion to Dolores, but above all an all encompassing sense of love. Lastly I have to mention the excellent performance by Chris Tucker (RUSH HOUR) as Danny, Pat’s friend from the mental institution. For the first time we see Tucker take on a mellow, quieter character and the results are memorable. Although he isn’t in the movie a great deal, he leaves a lasting impression and I hope Mr. Tucker will not wait another five years before coming back to the big screen, because he clearly has much more to offer than we have seen so far.
So often greatness is not something you can put into words, you just know it when you see it, and that seems to be the case for SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK. I have discussed the wonderful directing and acting in the movie in an effort to convey how great it is; I wish I had better words or knew how to express myself in such a way as to make you all understand how outstanding this movie is. If you have even the slightest interest in seeing it, please go to a theater and check it out; you will certainly be glad you did.
Final Score 10 out of 10