Let’s say you come home early and are surprised to find your wife in the shower. With another man. What would you do? If you’re Pat Solitano, Jr. (Cooper) you beat the hell out of him. Of course you now find yourself out of a job, out of a wife and spending eight months in a mental facility. But now you’re going home, which means things are bound to get better. Right?
Based on the novel “The Silver Linings Playbook” by Matthew Quick, “Silver Linings Playbook” is a sharp and smart mixture of tears and laughter, both happy and sad. The story follows Pat, Jr. as he begins his life while moving back in with his folks; mother Dolores (“Animal Kingdom” Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver) and father Pat Sr. (DeNiro – no introduction needed). Seems pop is a diehard Philadelphia Eagles fan and runs a successful bookmaking racket out of his kitchen. Once home Pat, Jr. begins jogging and reading books his wife, also a teacher, has taught, hoping that when she sees him paying attention to both his mind and his body she will take him back. He is also introduced to Tiffany (Lawrence), a young woman whose policeman-husband recently died. Tiffany also has problems and the two of them become friends while working towards a mutual goal. A goal that is important to both.
Packed with real life moments and sometimes brutal honesty, “Silver Linings Playbook” will, I’m sure, always be remembered as the film in which Bradley Cooper made the jump from former “Sexiest Man Alive” to top notch actor. Even in roles in films that don’t include the word “Hangover” in their title, Cooper has always managed to hide just a little bit behind his smile and blue eyes. But here he is stripped naked, emotionally, and gives a performance that is sure to be on the short list of Oscar nominees this year. Also surprising is the gift of comedy that Lawrence possesses. Having gone from unknown actress to Oscar nominee to “The Hunger Games” in what seemed like a blink of an eye, Lawrence shows herself a master of timing and plays off Cooper brilliantly. DeNiro and Weaver also breathe life into what could have been very clichéd and overdone performances.
Writer/director Russell, whose last film, “The Fighter,” also dealt with some dysfunctional family moments, continues to grow as a storyteller. Here he places his camera directly into the moment, allowing the viewer to experience the characters first hand. The script is solid, with only a few moments that don’t ring true.