I was actually quite excited to watch Silver Linings Playbook as I had heard that Jennifer Lawrence won an award for her acting in it. Plus, the synopsis for the movie seemed interesting enough.
At its core, Silver Linings Playbook is about a man, Pat Solitano Jr (played by Bradley Cooper), who suffers from bipolar disorder. Prior to being diagnosed, Pat nearly beat a man to death. It was actually this incident that put him in a psychiatric facility and caused his wife to leave him. After 8 months in the facility, his mother manages to get him released, against the wishes of his doctors. As his wife is gone, Pat moves in with his parents. In an effort to win back his wife, he begins reading her classroom reading list (she’s a teacher), and begins exercising in an effort to “take care” of himself (including mentally). He also adapts the strategy of “excelsior,” or looking for the silver lining in stuff that happens to him. During this time, he also ends up meeting Tiffany (played by Jennifer Lawrence), who is the grieving, widowed sister-in-law of his best friend Ronnie (played by Ronnie Ortiz).
A lot of other things happen in the movie as well. However, instead of writing out a long summary post (as I tend to do), I’ll just discuss the general story-line and acting.
Coming to the story-line, it was okay. It actually wasn’t all that realistic (save for a few scenes) and featured quite a few cliches (the end dance scene being one of them). Plus, there was also this gambling (?) subplot that I felt was really boring. If anything, the gambling plot itself probably caused quite a few cliches. Hence, it wasn’t the most creative or unique story out there. That said, I will say that there were a few really nice elements, like the focus on ‘excelsior,’ for example, that elevate the movie beyond trite romantic comedies. Additionally, it was also quite entertaining as a whole (if you could get pass the cliches). However, I think the acting may have had something to do with that.
On that note, let’s move into discussing the acting. I’d already mentioned that I knew that Jennifer Lawrence won an Oscar for her performance in this movie. So I think I watched her performance with a more attentive eye than usual. In my opinion, Oscar worthy performances are those in which a) not only do the actors challenge themselves and their acting chops, but b) they end up disappearing into the role. Also implied in the winning of an Oscar, is that the performance itself is practically perfect. Coming to this movie and her performance, I actually don’t think her acting was worthy of an Oscar. She definitely had quite a few fantastic scenes where she hit the nail on the head, but she also had other moments where she was just there. She didn’t particularly stand out, and that was my problem. It felt like a run of the mill type of role that any young actress could’ve done. I mean, compare Lawrence’s Tiffany to Natalie Portman’s performance in Black Swan or even Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby. She just doesn’t live up, at least not in this performance.
Plus, her looks didn’t help either. She just looked so incredibly young in the movie. It was especially jarring when contrasted with Bradley Cooper. If I’m not mistaken, they have an over 10 years gap, and it was quite visible in this movie. Her young looks really detracted from some scenes in the movie. I would’ve definitely preferred an older looking actress. But that’s probably not her fault; it’s the fault of the director and casting director.
In my opinion, the real star of the movie was really Bradley Cooper. As the main lead, his character was far more fleshed out than the others. As a result, Cooper got to show off a lot of his range, all while staying within a singular character. Not only did he manage to nail that, but he also went beyond and made Pat quite a likeable character. Even when Pat does some truly bad things, you still feel for him. If anything, I felt as if Bradley Cooper disappeared into his character far more seamlessly and completely than Jennifer Lawrence did. You rooted for Pat, felt his pain and frustration, and could even relate to him sometimes. It was a fantastic performance.
Actually, now that I reflect back on it, the acting in the movie was quite good on the whole. Robert Di Nero was fantastic as Pat’s dad, along with Jacki Weaver as the mother (although she didn’t have much to do). Same goes for Anupam Kher as Dr. Patel, Chris Tucker as Danny, and John Ortiz as Ronnie. In fact, some of the best scenes in the movie were ensemble scenes, wherein all the actors would be the scene together. One highlight, for example, is the gambling scene in the lower half of the movie (Pat’s father bets double or nothing for Eagles winning and Pat and Tiffany scoring a 5). Hence, I think the highlight of the movie was really the acting from the cast of actors. The directing and cinematography just supported them by being good as well.
My rating: watch it if you’d like to watch a happy romantic comedy and witness Bradley Cooper’s phenomenal acting.