Silver Linings Playbook,
directed by David O. Russell
(Anchor Bay, 2012)

Silver Linings Playbook is a strange kind of awkward, so much so that watching the lead characters interact -- with each other, as well as the people around them -- sometimes feels uncomfortably like ogling someone making a scene in a restaurant.

You want to look away, but you can't. And, after watching too long, you realize you're invested in the scene and are rooting for the parties involved.

Bradley Cooper is Pat, a bipolar former teacher who has just been released into his parents' care from a mental hospital, where he was incarcerated after beating nearly to death the man he found in the shower with his wife. Although she has a restraining order against him, Pat is wildly and stubbornly optimistic that their love affair will soon resume with even greater fervor than before.

Jennifer Lawrence is Tiffany, an emotionally scarred young woman whose husband's untimely death sent her into a spiral of depression that found unhealthy release in numerous sexual encounters with, well, pretty much everyone she encountered.

Their first meeting -- an awkward and ill-advised attempt to fix them up by Pat's friend and Tiffany's sister, who are themselves dysfunctionally married -- goes badly. That doesn't stop Tiffany from offering to sleep with Pat, and his refusal bewilders her -- only in part because it's out of a misguided sense of loyalty to the ex-wife from whom he's forbidden from seeing.

Of course they get together, although the manner in which that occurs is charming to watch.

More importantly is the manner in which both Cooper and Lawrence -- who is rapidly becoming one of my favorite young actors -- address their emotional and psychological wounds. It's not always pleasant to watch as they fumble and stumble along, sometimes hurting the people around them and sometimes simply embarrassing themselves. And yet, one cannot look away because it feels so very real, and you find yourself wanting to fix them in ways you're powerless to affect.

The movie benefits from a strong ensemble cast. Foremost among them are Robert De Niro as Pat Sr., Pat's OCD-afflicted father who finds it difficult to communicate through any means not involving the Eagles, and Jacki Weaver as Dolores, Pat's loving and steadfastly sane mother.

Fortunately for everyone involved, the Eagles had a pretty good season. You need to watch the movie to understand why that matters.

review by
Tom Knapp

22 June 2013

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