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2.2.13

For Your Consideration: 'Silver Linings Playbook'

The award for quirkiest movie this year should probably go to Silver Linings Playbook, directed by David O. Russell. Set to Russell's own screenplay adaptation of the novel by Matthew Quick, the story follows Pat Solitano, a young man in Philadelphia who has been committed to an asylum because of a breakdown following the collapse of his last relationship. He is allowed to leave if he stays under the supervision of his parents, but in many ways he has traded one loony bin for another. He continues to be obsessed with his ex, although he is legally prohibited from seeing her, and he undertakes any number of crazy schemes to prove himself worthy of her love. One includes meeting with and agreeing to help a young woman who had her own mental breakdown after her husband's premature death. In a plot twist that could only happen in this quirky corner of Philadelphia, they enter a dance contest together, and with their success or failure ride Pat's father's hopes to get out of debt and start a restaurant.

Bradley Cooper (The Hangover) is single-minded, obsessed, and uncomfortably intense as Pat, a good performance but not one worthy of Best Actor recognition. As Tiffany, Pat's even more unbalanced counterpart, Jennifer Lawrence is fragile, loony, and a little unpredictable, which certainly merits the attention she received in this year's critics awards. She would be a worthy choice for the Academy's recognition, especially since her loss last year -- for the outstanding Winter's Bone, miles above the tripe of Black Swan -- was the straw that broke the camel's back, as far as me finally accepting that the Academy Awards are not worth my attention. I would not be upset by either of the supporting nominees from this film ending up with an Academy Award either. As the elder Pat Solitano, Robert De Niro brings a certain nutty dignity to the father who is about as unstable as his son, certain that who holds the TV remote and in which direction has a direct influence on the outcome of Philadelphia Eagles games. Jacki Weaver, who was both extraordinary and infuriating in last year's overlooked Animal Kingdom, seems like the more balanced parent by comparison.


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Russell's film deserves its nomination for Best Picture, although its turn toward rather conventional romantic comedy at the end was an unexpected pulling of punches from this once combative director. The writing is better than his also fine film from last year, The Fighter. In both of these films, and indeed in all of Russell's movies, the centrality and absolute insanity of family is a major theme. It may be dangerously unhealthy (as in in many ways Russell's greatest movie, Spanking the Monkey) or it may be hilariously pathetic (Flirting with Disaster). You may wish to pull yourself out of your family's orbit, but the gravitational pull holding you there is too much to resist.

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