The leaves are changing and starting to fall which means one thing to me – Oscar bait is in the air. Week after week now, studios will be finally bringing out the big guns in hope of scoring early recognition of something worthy of the coveted gold Oscar. So far, Argo has been sitting at the top of my list, but it has a chance of being bumped after bearing witness to David O. Russell’s new Silver Linings Playbook.
Adapting Matthew Quick’s novel, Silver Linings Playbook brings a film that rightfully flips the bird at conventional romantic-comedies. Pat (Bradley Cooper) has just been released from a mental institute in Baltimore. His mother Dolores (Jackie Weaver) has talked the courts into letting him move back home under the supervision of herself and his father, Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro). After a quick turnaround back to the institute to return fellow patient Danny (Chris Tucker), Dolores takes Pat home. He’s forced to take in some meds and participate in therapy with Dr. Patel (Anupam Kher), after he was institutionalized for beating up the history teacher with tenure he caught in the shower with his wife Nikki (Brea Bee).
Not everything at home is fine and dandy. While Pat was diagnosed as bi-polar, his father also seems to be dealing with his own OCD. Pat becomes obsessed with winning back his wife and begins by reading everything on her syllabus and showing her that he has changed. After meeting up with his friend Ronny (John Ortiz), whose domineering wife Veronica (Julia Stiles) is good friends with Nikki. Veronica invites Pat over to dinner, along with her sister Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence). Tiffany has just been fired from her job and recently became widowed.
Tiffany and Pat quickly become a little obsessed with each other for very different reasons. All Pat wants is for Tiffany to deliver a letter to Nikki, which she quickly uses against him to blackmail him into being her dance partner for a couples competition. She’s always wanted to compete but her football-obsessed husband never had time. Speaking of football, Pat’s father thinks he has returned his beloved Philadelphia Eagles’ juju and believes Tiffany is throwing it all out of whack because they’ve been spending so much time together on Sundays. But everything is about to change in some unexpected, and some not so, ways.
I’ve always felt that David O. Russell was robbed when his last effort, The Fighter, lost out to The King’s Speech. While some may not believe in the power of repeat viewings to be one of the key elements in winning (see also the loss of Juno to No Country for Old Men), I think it should be. I may own No Country as I am a completest and own every Coen Brothers film on Blu-ray, but I have only watched that one twice. Juno on the other hand, has had its fair share of spins in the old player. Same goes for The King’s Speech, I’ve only seen it once, don’t own it, and feel it’s been over-praised, at least as far as Best Picture goes, but I digress. The Fighter I have also watched on multiple occasions, no thanks in part to my wife’s Marky Mark obsession, but mostly because it’s such an enjoyable movie on top of being award-winning.
Russell always manages to cobble together an eclectic cast to bring out the best in his characters, reaching all the way back through his filmography from Flirting with Disaster, Three Kings, I Heart Huckabees to The Fighter and now Silver Linings Playbook. Not to mention that he’s also written or co-written every film he’s directed (with the exception of The Fighter), which goes to show what a rounded filmmaker he really is.
Cooper and Lawrence are the real winners here, and together they deliver a dramedy tour de force. Yes, Cooper has been more hit-or-miss over the years, but Lawrence proves yet again that she’s still the beacon of talent brought to light in Winter’s Bone. When the nominations are announced early next year, don’t be surprised to find plenty of deserved love for Silver Linings Playbook.
Photos courtesy The Weinstein Company