Just last night I was talking to some of my friends about how all Hollywood seems to do these days is these mega-budget movies. There simply aren’t that many dramas and “small scale” movies being made. Where is the Shawshank Redemption of the new millennium? Well, Silver Linings Playbook doesn’t have too much in common with Shawshank, but let me tell you the one thing it does have in common: it’s a damn good drama.
Pat Solatano, played by Bradley Cooper, has spent 8 months in a mental institute when his mother arrives one day to take him home. Pat is released into the custody of his ageing parents, played by Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro, after a mental breakdown which almost put him behind bars. Pat returns home and tries to get his life on track so he can repair his broken marriage. Pat’s mother just wants to see her boy get back on his feet. Pat’s dad wants his son around so they can talk about and watch his favourite football team play. However, things take an unexpected turn when Pat meets Tiffany, played by Jennifer Lawrence, a beautiful but troubled young woman with dysfunctions of her own.
If you like your stories grounded and with complex and realistic characters, then Silver Linings Playbook is for you.
The Bottom Line
It’s been a while since I’ve seen a really good drama from a Hollywood studio. Any drama that I’ve seen that’s been noteworthy has been an independent film, or has been a foreign studio. It’s great to see that there are still directors in Hollywood studios who can create dramas as good as this.
The story in Silver Linings Playbook is actually not that groundbreaking, and isn’t going to catch you off guard with any amazing twists or anything like that. What does make Silver Linings Playbook stand out is its interesting characters and the amazing performances that bring those characters to life.
I’ve seen Bradley Cooper in a fair amount of movies as the leading man, but I’ve never seen him play a character that is so obviously flawed. He brings across an amazing performance as Pat, who suffers from OCD and has massive mood swings. Like a genuinely crazy person, Pat never realises how unusual his behaviour is until he calms down. Jennifer Lawrence is a very talented actress, but like Mr Cooper, up until now she’s played strong leading ladies who’ve been pretty level headed. It’s great to see her take on a character that is a mix of good and bad. Tiffany is struggling to deal with the death of her husband, which caused her to do a lot of things she later regretted. There’s also the obvious onscreen chemistry between these two actors that makes the relationship even more believable.
Even the supporting cast manages to bring life to characters that don’t have that much screen time, whether it’s Robert De Niro who plays Pat’s father (who also has his own fair share of mental issues) or Chris Tucker (a man who is just crazy enough to be kept in a mental asylum, but not crazy enough to hurt someone).
This movie is wonderfully put together by the director, David O. Russell. I’m unfortunately not too familiar with Russell’s earlier work, but I did watch his last movie which was The Fighter. Like Silver Linings, The Fighter manages to keep its characters grounded and realistic. It’s hard to say that his movies have a distinct signature the way Michael Bay or Peter Jackson’s movies do, but looking at the movies that he’s been involved in, it would be fair to say that he definitely prefers to do movies that are realistic, and there’s no doubt that he’s pretty damn good at it.
Perhaps the only criticism I could aim at this movie is that it’s ending is a bit too Hollywood, but by the end the main characters have been through quite a bit, so you want to see something good happen to them.
Overall this is a fantastic drama, and I can recommend it to anyone who falls outside of the age restriction. Even if dramas aren’t your thing, you should check this out.