Thursday, November 22, 2012

Silver Linings Playbook

Based on the novel by Matthew Quick, Silver Linings Playbook is about a man who returns to his family following a breakdown caused by misfortune and his wife’s extramarital affair. In hopes to get his life back in order and reclaim his wife, the man meets a young troubled woman as they team up to help each other. Written for the screen and directed by David O. Russell, the film is an exploration into people troubled by their own dysfunctions as they hope to get back in the world. Starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Tucker, Jacki Weaver, Julia Stiles, Anupam Kher, Shea Whigham, and Robert de Niro. Silver Linings Playbook is a charming and whimsical film from David O. Russell.

After being institutionalized for eight months following a violent breakdown due to the affair of wife Nikki (Brea Bree) where he loses his home in the process. Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) returns home to his Philadelphia Eagles-obsessed father Pat Sr. (Robert de Niro) and mother Dolores (Jacki Weaver) in hopes to re-start his life and win back Nikki. Though he’s reluctant to attend therapy sessions with Dr. Cliff Patel (Anupam Kher), Pat is hoping to do whatever to win his wife back despite the restraining order she’s put on him. Invited to dinner by his friend Ronnie (John Ortiz) and his wife Veronica (Julia Stiles), Pat meets Veronica’s younger sister Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) who is dealing with her own issues as the two get together as they’re both in need of people to talk to. Particularly as Tiffany is still reeling from the death of her husband several months ago.

When Pat wants to send a letter to his wife through Tiffany, Tiffany reluctantly decides to do it only if Pat would help her get ready for a dance competition she wants to participate in. Pat agrees though neither of them are accomplished dancers as they get a bit of help from Pat’s friend Danny (Chris Tucker) who had just been released from the same institution Pat was just in. The two become close as Pat’s father needs Pat to come to attend a game with Pat’s older brother Jake (Shea Whigham) thinking that Pat is good luck and hopes the Eagles win against the Giants so he can win a bet and get the money he needs to open a cheesesteak sandwich restaurant. Instead, things go wrong only until Tiffany comes to the Solitano home that inspires Pat Sr. to make a bet that will help everyone. Yet, Tiffany becomes concerned whether Pat will participate in the dance as he becomes more obsessed about reaching his wife.

Starting over after a breakdown is a hard thing to do. Especially when it concerns a man who had lost everything as he begins to wonder why his wife would cheat on him as he becomes obsessed with winning her back. When he meets a young widow who is just as troubled as he is, the two form a bond as they would participate in a local dance competition in the hopes that the man can show his wife that he’s changed. That’s the premise of the film as it explores the world of two people who feel like no one understands them as they’re trying to find some way for their family and friends to understand and support them. While they both have families who mean well and want to know what’s wrong with them, they have no clue in how to approach them.

David O. Russell’s screenplay definitely captures a lot of truth about people who feel out of sorts with the world as they’re on medication, having to attend therapy, and do things that most people wouldn’t understand. Pat is a guy who likes to go jogging while wearing a trash bag over his sweater in order to get in shape. He’s also reading books that his wife had put on her syllabus where he is just amazed at all of the negativity he finds in those books. Pat is also someone that is deeply troubled as hearing Stevie Wonder’s My Cherie Amour becomes a trigger for his outbursts as his behavior would cause a lot of worry. Then there’s Tiffany who is a bit anti-social as she’s not interested in being around her sister or her family while can also go crazy if she’s being pushed. She’s also very confrontational and admits that she’s a bit of a nymphomaniac.

Having Pat and Tiffany together gives the two of them a chance to finally understand themselves and the motivation to improve their lives where they delve into dancing. Though Pat is reluctant about dancing, it manages to help him as it even takes notice of his family, friends, and Dr. Patel. While Pat’s father is a die-hard Eagles fan who is so obsessed about them winning as he’s unable to attend the games since he’s banned from the stadium over some fights. He’s also a caring father who just wants his son to be there for good luck as he hopes to win money so he can start a cheesesteak sandwich shop. Once he realizes the benefit of Pat and Tiffany’s time together, it gives him the chance to make the ultimate bet that he hopes would give everyone a chance to win something. It’s not just the premise that makes the story so intriguing but also the characters as they’re just real people who are trying to understand these two very damaged yet good-hearted souls.

Russell’s direction is very engaging for the way he mixes humor and drama as it let it all play out naturally. Notably as he uses a lot of close-ups and medium shots to capture the actors in a frame while shooting it entirely on location in Philadelphia. Russell makes Philadelphia and its nearby small towns as characters where people talk a certain way and live a certain life where they have a love for the Eagles and the Phillies. Notably in a scene during an Eagles game where it’s a very wild atmosphere where the camera is in the middle of all of this craziness where people of all sorts come together just to have a good time. It’s not just the craziness of that world that Russell captures but also the Solitano home where Pat Sr. wants his son watching the game while Dolores is in the kitchen making food. It’s a bit chaotic but it plays to the atmosphere that Russell wants.

The direction also is very intimate in the way he presents the relationship between Pat and Tiffany where Russell keeps things simple. Notably in the scenes in Tiffany’s mini-dance studio where it’s just very sparse and it’s all about these two people trying to learn to dance. It’s a world that they can be comfortable in and that their family know about but don’t have to come in there. The film’s climax is the dance where Russell creates a great mix of humor and drama as it all unfolds where it’s not just about the dance but the reaction of those who are watching them. The outcome isn’t just about them winning a contest but to see who is willing to cheer for them as they’re finally ready to emerge from the dark hell both of them have been through. Overall, Russell creates a very winning and heartwarming film about two people in need of help as it’s real, sad, and very funny.

Cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi does excellent work with the photography from the more naturalistic look of the daytime exterior and interior locations to more stylish lighting styles at night including the climatic dance scene. Editor Jay Cassiday does amazing work with the editing by creating unique rhythmic cuts for the film‘s dancing and dramatic moments along with more stylish cuts in the scenes at the Eagles tailgate party. Production designer Judy Becker, along with set decorator Heather Loeffler and art director Jesse Rosenthal, does nice work with the set pieces such as Tiffany‘s studio, Ronnie and Veronica‘s posh home, and the more middle-class home look of Pat Sr. and Dolores‘ home.

Costume designer Mark Bridges does wonderful work with the costumes from the stylish clothes that Tiffany wears to the more casual look that most of the characters wear including those Eagles jerseys. Sound editor Olda Benitez does terrific work with the sound from the intimacy in Tiffany‘s studio to the more raucous atmosphere in the Solitano living room whenever the game is on. The film’s music by Danny Elfman is a delight for its low-key yet plaintive piano-driven score to play out the drama and some of the humor that occurs. Music supervisor Susan Jacobs creates a brilliant music soundtrack that is a wide mix of music from acts like the White Stripes, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan with Johnny Cash, Eagles of Death Metal, Stevie Wonder, Alabama Shakes, Jessie J, and many others along with different types of ballroom dancing music.

The casting by Lindsay Graham and Mary Vernieu is incredible for the ensemble that is created as it features some noteworthy appearances from Dash Mihok as Officer Keogh, Matthew Russell as a nosy neighbor, Patrick McDade and Cheryl Williams as Tiffany’s parents, and Brea Bree as Patrick’s wife Nikki. Paul Herman is very good as Pat Sr.’s friend Randy who is a fan of the Dallas Cowboys while Shea Whigham is wonderful as Pat’s older brother Jake who tries to get Pat back in the world by going to an Eagles game. Julia Stiles is very good as Tiffany’s materialistic older sister Veronica while John Ortiz is terrific as Veronica’s husband and Pat’s friend Ronnie who goes to Pat over his issues with Veronica.

Anupam Kher is great as Pat’s shrink Dr. Patel who tries to steer Pat into a place that can help him while proving to be a very lively Eagles fans. Jacki Weaver is superb as Pat’s mother Dolores who is baffled by Pat’s behavior while dealing with all of the craziness as it’s very low-key yet charming performance from the actress. Chris Tucker is amazing in a very subdued yet engaging performance as Pat’s friend Danny who helps Pat with his issues while proving to be a good luck charm for Pat’s family. Robert de Niro is marvelous in what is a return-to-form of sorts as Pat’s father in the way he obsesses about the Eagles while showing a sense of craziness but also a tenderness to man who just wants to watch the game with his son.

Finally, there’s the duo of Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in their respective roles as Tiffany and Pat. Lawrence’s performance is definitely vibrant for the way she deals with her emotions and outbursts while being very nonchalant about certain things as it’s a performance that allows Lawrence to be direct and to the point while slowly revealing herself. Cooper’s performance is definitely the best thing he’s done as he reveals many layers to a man that is troubled by his illness while seeking ways to redeem himself where Cooper can be very wild but also restrained in some of the moments. Lawrence and Cooper have a very electrifying chemistry where they’re able to play each other out and do things just adds to their work as they’re a real highlight for the film.

Silver Linings Playbook is a remarkable film from David O. Russell that features phenomenal performances from Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. Along with strong supporting work from Chris Tucker, Anupam Kher, Jacki Weaver, and Robert de Niro. The film is definitely a comedy with lots of hearts, lots of realism, and a story that is very engaging in the way it deals with mental illness as well as redemption. In the end, Silver Linings Playbook is an exhilarating film from David O. Russell.

David O. Russell Films: Spanking the Monkey - Flirting with Disaster - Three Kings - I Heart Huckabees - The Fighter - American Hustle - Accidental Love - Joy (2015 film) - The Auteurs #70: David O. Russell

© thevoid99 2012


Anonymous said...

For me, this is one of the best flicks of the year and I just hope that it continues to get all the buzz it so rightfully deserves. Cooper and Lawrence are great together, and despite the 15 year age difference between the two, they feel like the two perfect people that were meant to meet in this life, and make the other better in their own way. Great review bud.

s. said...

I like Cooper but the same can't be said about Lawrence, she really is going to have to be amazing in this one to make up for the stuff she was saying during promotion of the film. I will definetly see the movie for the story, which sounds interesting.

thevoid99 said...

@Dan-Thanks. And for the record... Fuck the Cowboys!!!!

@Sati-It's a better film than I thought it would be. Both of them are really good in this. I hope you enjoy it.

Alex Withrow said...

I really liked this one too. A rare romcom that hits all the right notes and completely kills it.

Who knew De Niro still had it in him? That scene when he's sitting on Cooper's bed? Wow.

thevoid99 said...

@Alex-That was a great scene. I knew the guy was OCD but man, I felt for him. That's the de Niro we need to see more of. Not these awful parody version of himself in those bad comedies, dramas, and that wedding movie he's about to be in with Katherine Heigl. Ew!!!!

Alex Withrow said...

Oh christ, I forgot about that. Dear god.

thevoid99 said...

@Alex-Don't worry, I'll remind you about that shit film since it will be part of my list of films to avoid for 2013 as I'm starting work on the 2013 Most Anticipated Films list.