Silver Linings Playbook

Movie Information

The Story: Unusual screwball romantic comedy about two very dysfunctional people. The Lowdown: Richly rewarding, funny, fresh and touching romantic comedy that both adheres to the genre while taking it to new places. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence make for a very appealing couple — and get great support from the rest of the A-list cast.
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Director: David O. Russell (I Heart Huckabees)
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker, Anupam Kher
Rated: R

Well, the Weinsteins have finally decided to let us have David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook — on Christmas Day. And a nicer present would be hard to wish for. It’s far and away the best offering of the ones I’ve seen that open between now and Dec. 25, and definitely gets my vote for best Christmas Day viewing. (The only unknown quantity of real note is Django Unchained, which didn’t get the awards season push for local critics to see it.)  Granted, it’s R-rated — mostly for language — and a lot of the thematic material is definitely adult, but if that’s not a concern, it’s your best bet for a movie that will entertain you, make you laugh and maybe even make you tear-up. That’s a pretty good Christmas Day parlay when you come to think of it. Writer-director David O. Russell has said that it’s meant to be like a 1930s screwball romantic comedy. I won’t dispute that, but it’s definitely a modern take on that kind of film, and not some slavish attempt to copy something from an earlier age. Put simply, it’s very much the sort of screwball romantic comedy you might expect from the guy who made I Heart Huckabees (2004).

The film recounts the story of Pat (Bradley Cooper), a fellow who has been doing a stint in a mental institution for attacking his wife (Brea Bee) and her paramour in the shower. He’s getting out when the film opens — though without the institution’s blessing and with a lot of restrictions, including a restraining order where his wife, her boyfriend and the school where he once worked are concerned. But Pat is upbeat — mostly because in his mind he can mend his ways, become what his wife wants and rebuild their life together. His mother (Jacki Weaver) believes in him. His father (Robert DeNiro) — who has anger issues of his own — is less sanguine about the whole thing. Much the feelings from his father can be said of just about everyone — at least until he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a young widow with her own set of issues. They sort of hit it off because they’re both at least a little crazy and decidedly prone to say and do exactly the wrong thing. Besides — in a kind of “meet cute” bonding for our age — they can natter on about their various experiences with psychiatric medications. She wants him, but he’s still in pursuit of his ex-wife. However, Tiffany’s older sister (Julia Stiles) is in contact with said ex-wife, and Tiffany uses her position to make a deal with Pat to surreptitiously deliver a letter from him — if he’ll do something for her.

Without going into further details — a lot of the fun lies in finding them out for yourself — that is essentially the plot, or at least the bare bones of it. There’s a lot more going on than that in terms of characterization and in complications — especially when two bets become involved in the plot. This may not sound all that different from other films of its type — and in some ways it isn’t, but in other ways, it very much is. Tiffany may not really be a lot more than a variation on, most obviously, Carole Lombard’s dizzy rich girl in My Man Godfrey (1936), but the character has more depth — and more pain — than you see in that earlier form. The line between dizzy and mentally unbalanced is perhaps a thin one — or perhaps this film recognizes that those dizzy society girls were more disturbed than the fun of the concept allowed. That’s not to say that Silver Linings Playbook isn’t fun, or that it doesn’t do what you want a movie of this nature to do. It just does it in a different way. You really do need to see for yourself. Trust me.

As noted, the film is part of the world of David O. Russell — much more so than his last film, The Fighter (2010), was — but it’s more viewer friendly than I Heart Huckabees. It’s just as quirky, but it’s a quirky crowd-pleaser. The whole cast is splendid — everyone is better than they needed to be — and Russell’s direction is creative and assured. Fans of that earlier Bradley Cooper film, The Midnight Meat Train (2008), should watch the scenery in the scene when Cooper chases Lawrence from the diner. (Apparently, Russell is an admirer of that film, too — and I like him even more for that.) Rated R for language and some sexual content/nudity,

Starts on Christmas Day at Carolina Asheville Cinema 14 and Fine Arts Theatre


About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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24 thoughts on “Silver Linings Playbook

  1. Jeremy Dylan

    Ashevillains, go see this movie. Ken’s not lying. It’s good.

  2. Me

    Hope to check it out even though i have heard the ending turns into an 80s movie where everything is solved by a contest.

  3. Jeremy Dylan

    I was so afraid they would chicken out with the ending, but thankfully my fears were ill-founded.

    I cried.

  4. Vince Lugo

    Has no one seen Tropic Thunder? All Bradley Cooper is doing here is trying to win awards he hasn’t earned and doesn’t deserve. He’s not the first actor to do this and he won’t be the last. And yet, people fall for it every single time. When are we going to learn?

  5. Ken Hanke

    Have you seen this film? If not — and it certainly sounds like you haven’t — then you really don’t know what you’re talking about. Do you understand that Cooper isn’t playing a mentally-challenged person, but a mentally-unbalanced one? And that there is a difference? This isn’t the rom-com version of I Am Sam or Radio.

  6. Vince Lugo

    I know there’s a difference, but I look at the trailer and all I can think of is “Simple Jack”. Call me cynical, but it seems like every year there’s at least one movie that’s designed for one purpose and one purpose only: winning awards. “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” comes to mind. Fortunately, in that case, it didn’t work. They lost every Oscar they were nominated for. But sometimes, it does work and that’s why it frustrates me so. It wouldn’t be so bad if they were honest enough to admit what they were doing, but they don’t.

  7. Ken Hanke

    How you look at that trailer and think of Simple Jack (or Extremely Loud)is completely incomprehensible to me. There is absolutely no connection. I also never once thought “Oscar Bait” when watching the film (twice). On the other hand, ALL I thought of was “gimme an Oscar, gimme an Oscar, gimme an Oscar” while watching Les Miserables. Now, that is a movie with its eye on awards — see how Anne Hathway lost a lot of weight by eating two spoonfuls of library paste a day! See her have her hair cut off live and onscreen! See her perform her Big Number in one take! See Hugh Jackman sing so hard that the veins pop out all over his head! See Hugh Jackman covered in shit! How come you’re not calling “Oscar Bait” on it?

    And until you’ve seen a whole performance, you’re in no position to criticize its possible award as “unearned” and “undeserved.”

  8. Jeremy Dylan

    There are any number of awards this film could pick up which would be well deserved.

    Smart money would probably have Jennifer Lawrence for good odds in the BEST ACTRESS stakes. Cooper probably has more competition, but it’s a wonderful performance.

    Is there a BEST MUSIC SUPERVISOR Oscar?

  9. Ken Hanke

    Is there a BEST MUSIC SUPERVISOR Oscar?

    If there is it should go to Perks of Being a Wallflower. Or Moonrise Kingdom maybe.

  10. Edwin Arnaudin

    All Bradley Cooper is doing here is trying to win awards he hasn’t earned and doesn’t deserve.

    Cooper’s performance isn’t awards-bait in the least. It’s too edgy and funny and sad and nuanced for such an accusation.

  11. Big Al

    The Oscars are a politically manipulated fraud and an overrated joke. Who cares?

    SLP is a winner. I loved it.

  12. Ken Hanke

    Well, we like the Oscars on those rare occasions when we agree with them. The rest of the time we like to bitch about them.

  13. Edwin Arnaudin

    It will win one. My guess is De Niro or Lawrence. Depends on how much the Academy loves LINCOLN and hates ZERO DARK THIRTY.

  14. Jeremy Dylan

    My pick would be Lawrence. The Supporting Actor category is anyone’s guess, although I’d be surprised if Jones won, just because I haven’t heard anyone raving over his performance.

    You’d think Hoffman would be a certainty in any other year, but people don’t seem all that taken with THE MASTER (I haven’t seen it).

  15. Ken Hanke

    I’d like to see Lawrence win. I wouldn’t mind Cooper, but I doubt anyone’s beating Mr. Day-Lewis. I’d rather see Christoph Waltz get Supporting Actor than De Niro, but it’s too close to his last one. I don’t especially want to see any of the Supporting Actress nominees win.

  16. Todd Hoke

    Saw it tonight at Flat Rock. Charming, charminger, charmingest. Even with the showerfight scene. Did other guys get a touch mistyeyed at the father/son scenes? For the record: I’m using “I was drinking at the time” as my excuse.

    Thank you for the rocksolid recommendation. Again.

  17. Ken Hanke

    Well, all things must come to an end — and this marks the final week of Silve Linings Playbook, which has been playing since Xmas day.

  18. Jeremy Dylan

    It’s leaving Aussie cinemas at the same time. I had intended to catch it again on the big screen before it’s departure, but I missed the boat.

  19. Steven

    Well, all things must come to an end — and this marks the final week of Silve Linings Playbook, [b]which has been playing since Xmas day[/b].

    Wow, is that a record for this town?

  20. Ken Hanke

    Wow, is that a record for this town?

    No, so far as I know Midnight in Paris holds the record.

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