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"SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK"
(2012) (Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence) (R)

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QUICK TAKE:
Dramedy: After an eight-month stint in a psychiatric hospital, a young man tries to get his life back together while interacting with an equally troubled young woman he's just met.
PLOT:
Having served eight months in a psychiatric hospital for pummeling a man he caught in the shower with his wife, Nikki (BREA BEE), Pat Solitano (BRADLEY COOPER) leaves fellow patient and friend Danny (CHRIS TUCKER) at the institution to go back home and live with his parents, Pat Sr. (ROBERT DE NIRO) and Dolores (JACKI WEAVER).

Despite having lost everything -- his job, home and wife -- Pat is determined to get all of them back. While his mom just wants him to be happy, his dad simply wants him to be around on game day as a good luck charm for their hometown Philadelphia Eagles, what with Pat Sr. acting as a betting bookie and often placing his own wagers with friend Randy (PAUL HERMAN).

Diagnosed as bipolar with some OCD issues and under the care of Dr. Cliff Patel (ANUPAM KHER), Pat tries to believe there are silver linings to everything and is sure Nikki wants him back. Thus, he agrees to have dinner with his friends Ronnie (JOHN ORTIZ) and Veronica (JULIA STILES), especially since the latter occasionally sees Nikki.

It's there that he meets Veronica's younger sister, Tiffany (JENNIFER LAWERENCE), who's led a troubled life following the accidental death of her cop husband. She and Pat sense kindred spirits in each other, but it also doesn't take much for their beliefs and behavior to have them at odds with each other. As their friendship develops, the two come to an unusual arrangement to help each other.

OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10
Back when I was a very, very young NFL football fan, there was no way for someone who rooted for a faraway team (not shown on local TV unless they were playing the closest local team) to hear or see the score of the latest game. There was no Internet, no ESPN, and no sports talk radio. No, I simply had to be glued to the local game in hopes that the occasional onscreen text update would show me the latest score.

Of course, back then, and not knowing how the universe worked, I had the superstitious belief that my behavior somehow affected the play hundreds of miles away. Thus, if that updated showed that my team scored, I'd literally stay in whatever position I was seated in until the next update, a slow and ultimately physically agonizing process that -- by sheer luck -- was reward enough times for me to believe in that power. That is, at least until I got old enough to realize the stupidity and sheer lack of logic in such behavior.

Granted, many adults are still superstitious to one degree or another, be that knocking on wood, avoiding walking under ladders and having a certain fear of broken mirrors or spilt salt. But few are as superstitious as sports fans who often go through repeated rituals they believe will bring their beloved team good luck, or will adopt new ones if the old ones have somehow, inexplicably lost their power.

Pat Solitano Sr. (Robert De Niro) is one such man who's so into his team -- the Philadelphia Eagles -- in the movie "Silver Linings Playbook" that he's been permanently banned from the stadium for his emotional fervor turning violent sometime in the past. Now, he sits at home and goes through his rituals before and during the game. But he thinks a new good luck charm has arrived in the form of his adult son and namesake (Bradley Cooper) who's just been released from a mental hospital for a past violent outburst.

Apparently, the apple hasn't fallen far from the tree, and that sort of trait could be one passed down to the next generation, whether by nature, nurture or a combo of both. But rather than being fixated on the Eagles, Pat Jr. has a pig-headed focus on getting his wife back, despite her sending clear signals that she doesn't want him around. One was her getting caught showering with a colleague where the intention wasn't to get clean, and another a later restraining order she put on her husband for pounding the guy to within an inch of his life upon the discovery of the adultery.

Despite that, he's fixated on his belief she wants him back and thus is going through and reading her college teaching syllabus while living at home with dear old dad and mom (Jacki Weaver). He discovers what he thinks might be an inroad back to his wife through his friends (John Ortiz and Julia Stiles) and that woman's sister (Jennifer Lawrence) who's likewise living with her parents after suffering a breakdown of sorts of her own. The two troubled sorts become prickly friends, with various scenes of them getting along and then yelling, much like he behaves with his dad.

That might not sound like a fun time at the movies, but in the hands of writer/director David O. Russell (who previously helmed "The Fighter" and "Three Kings"), it all goes down in a fairly lighthearted, sometimes heartwarming and usually quite entertaining way. Working from his adaptation of Matthew Quick's novel, the filmmaker sets the right tone from the get-go and then carries that through, thus creating a romantic comedy meets dramedy that people who hate formulaic rom-coms will likely enjoy (as long as they don't mind the decidedly adult content).

Beyond delivering an Oscar-worthy screenplay featuring some terrifically penned dialogue, Russell gets a great deal of help from his terrific cast and their solid to wonderful performances. While Bradley Cooper is best known for staring in the "Hangover" movies and as the "bad guy" in "Wedding Crashers" (among many other appearances), he delivers what's arguably his best performance to date as the troubled protagonist. I'm not sure if it's quite up to Oscar caliber (and there's a good amount of better work out there this year), but it's a nice turn for the performer who shows he has some unexpected depth.

Award worthy certainly applies to Jennifer Lawrence who's nothing short of terrific here as the young woman who's trying to get her life back on track following a serious derailment of recent. While her work may just end up classified by the releasing studio as being in the Best Supporting category rather than the more prestigious "Best Actress" one, her performance is the perfect combination of drama and comedy.

De Niro and Jacki Weaver are good as the young man's parents, Anupam Kher is decent as his psychiatrist, and comedian Chris Tucker make a rare cinematic appearance outside of the three "Rush Hour" films (his last non-RH movie was way back in 1997). The chemistry is good between all of the characters (especially the leads) and they all get decent mileage out of Russell's script.

I didn't know much about the film, its genre or tonal aspects before our press screening, but I really enjoyed it from start to finish. I think many adult viewers will have the same reaction, even if they're not Eagles fans and regardless of whether they have any superstitious rituals they employ in hopes of the movie they're watching will end up being good. "Silver Linings Playbook" is and it rates as a 7 out of 10.




Reviewed November 1, 2012 / Posted November 16, 2012


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