Silver Linings Playbook Review: Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence Pretend to be Eagles Fans

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Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Getting into Silver Linings Playbook is a slow burn to say the least, but if you stick it out through a few muddled scenes and a half-hour or so of pure boredom, you’ll be rewarded with a charming, fun and heartwarming romantic comedy that, at times, relies on the normal tropes of the popular genre.  To boil the plot down to its most basic parts, the film revolves around two mentally unstable people who recently lost the loves of their lives coming together over a series of tragic events usually set up by their own impairments.

The story does a good job of showing how the main character Pat, played by Bradley Cooper, came to be through interactions with his father and a little too much exposition in the beginning of the film. Within the first fifteen minutes there was a monologue between Cooper and his therapist that felt like a mandatory spewing of information and a lot of it was eventually explained later in the film in much more subtle and intelligent ways. Those first few over-explained scenes, as well as a lot of the dialogue in the film, felt like it was pandering and treating its audience like a bunch of bumbling idiots. A lot of things are spelled out way too plainly for my taste, but once the movie gets rolling the hand-holding slows down and you’re able to start piecing the story of Pat and Tiffany together on your own.

Eventually the script opens up past the love story and gets into a family drama revolving around Pat and his overly superstitious and gambling-addicted father. It does a decent enough job of pushing the main characters together while also continuing to show the origin’s of the main character’s issues. In a movie that was building up football so much, it really didn’t hold back on showing the darkside of being too much into the game and the effect it can have on ones family.

Bradley Cooper does a decent job portraying his characters struggles with being bi-polar and trying to move on from a cheating wife without playing the disease up like a farce. It’s extremely easy for films with mental illnesses to exaggerate them to the point where they are a joke and would have been even more so with some of Cooper’s roles in previous films, but his performance was on-par with a diagnosed bi-polar. His flashes of anger were subtle a lot of the time – just an angry glance or the very visual need to hit something without actually doing it were all he needed to get it across and he did so really well. When the outbursts turn violent, they weren’t over-the-top and choreographed fight scenes or something stupid, it was an angry man sloppily swinging his arms around angry at the world. When the intensity of conversations and interactions ratcheted up towards the end of the film Cooper really held his own among a group of great performances. Maybe it could be considered more hand-holding, but I liked how his “trigger” song (which, in case you were wondering, was “My Cherie Armor” by Stevie Wonder) would play in the background when he began to get angrier. It was subtle enough that it wasn’t in your face, but it set the mood well whenever Pat was having a episode.

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Robert De Niro delivered a great performance as well, and was very believable as Bradley Cooper’s struggling father.

Consider it left over fanboyism from The Fifth Element, but Chris Tucker’s minor role was probably my favorite character in the whole movie. He’s nothing more than a motivator to push the story along at key points, but it’s a perfect Chris Tucker role in that he’s loud, quick-witted, and often caught in a lie. Great performance by him and it’s a damn shame he’s not in more movies, but that’s another article altogether.

And of course, Jennifer Lawrence was Jennifer Lawrence. Without spoiling too much about her character, she did a great job of playing someone run ragged by recent events and trying to overcome it. There was a definite layer of sadness throughout her whole performance but she never resorted to just looking “mopey” like a lot of actors portraying depression do. All of this gave her scenes where her character was happy that much more impact. She was a big ball of anguish and sadness where a few bright lights show through the cracks sometimes. Great character and great performance.

Chemistry between the two leads was sporadic, but it felt like it was by design. They’re being shoved together by friends at possibly the worst time in their lives so it makes total sense that they would not be attracted right away. Every time attraction does rise, there’s a good reason and it feels natural. The story does attempt a couple plot twists that are easy to spot from a mile away, but they’re decent enough to motivate the characters so it doesn’t hurt too much.

Overall, if you or your significant other are in the mood for a romantic comedy you could do much worse than Silver Linings Playbook. It’s not one I’ll probably watch again and or would pay to see, but I didn’t want to claw my eyes out, it’s on Netflix and it didn’t star Katherine Heigl. All good things for a romantic comedy in my book.

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