Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Oscars 2013: Silver Linings Playbook

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence tangle as Pat and Tiffany
Silver Linings Playbook (U.S., 2012) directed by David O. Russell, 122 minutes
Nominated for Eight Oscars:
Best Picture
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best Director
Best Actor
Best Actress
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Film Editing
You've gotta love Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper), bipolar, wackily charismatic, and recently released from a mental health facility and allowed to go live with his benighted parents Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro) and Dolores (Jackie Weaver) if he promises to remain on his meds. Having almost beat his wife’s lover to death after he catches them in flagrante delicto, Pat is hospitalized for eight months and compelled to take medication to control his intense and erratic behavior.

The dynamic between father and son is poignantly realistic – DeNiro as Pat Sr. is equally emotionally volatile, domineering, a sports fanatic banned from Eagles games because of his disruptive behavior. Pat Sr. tries reason, gentle cajoling, then ultimately bullying his troubled son and this lends most of the comedy to the film – the contrast between the prickly, rough speaking but loving father and the slightly deluded, lovesick son. Mother Dolores tries to mediate, often unsuccessfully, between the two hot-headed men.

But Pat has a plan … he will get in shape (jogging around the neighborhood wrapped in a garbage bag to sweat and lose more weight), he will make amends to his wife Nikki (Brea Bee) who has since moved away and refuses to see him, with the restraining order against him to boot.

In an effort to help him adjust to being back home, his best friend Ronnie (John Ortiz) invites him to dinner with his wife (Julia Stiles) and his sister’s wife, the caustic but sexy Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence), who is recently widowed, currently jobless and recovering from her own addiction to sex after the death of her police officer husband. Tiffany is troubled but determined to captivate Pat’s attention and admiration.

Oddly, they bond, somewhat, over shared medications and broken hearts. Knowing that Pat is still smitten with Nikki, Tiffany offers to act as a go-between if Pat will consent to act as his partner in a local dance competition. He reluctantly agrees and they train rigorously. 

The silly plot details don’t matter and are somewhat convoluted but in order to help his father Pat Sr. win a large bet to help finance his father’s dream to open a restaurant, Pat and Tiffany must score a certain minimum score in the competition. Reluctantly, during the process, Pat falls in love with the overpowering Tiffany who dangles reconciliation with Nikki like a carrot before the still smitten Pat.

The supporting roles are compellingly humorous with a surprisingly subdued Chris Tucker as Pat’s closest friend while hospitalized; Julia Stiles as Ronnie’s combative wife; Jackie Weaver as Pat's sympathetic mother and John Ortiz as Ronnie, Pat’s hen-pecked best friend. 

Mental illness isn’t often funny … but director David O. Russell, director and scriptwriter (who wrote this a number years as a way to provide insight into his own son's mental health issues), does a great job of presenting a troubling situation in a compassionate and intelligent manner.

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