David O. Russell’s (Flirting with Disaster, I Heart Huckabees, The Fighter) new romantic comedy ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ is the best movie of 2012. Why does this offbeat rom-com work so well? It has one of the main ingredients for success – a brilliant screenplay. Russell deserves the Best Original Screenplay Oscar this award season. He has crafted quirky characters that are likable and that the audience cannot help but root for. The romantic comedy is a tricky animal. It is probably the most underappreciated film genre out there. It is also the most difficult to do well on film. However, when it is done correctly, it is onscreen magic. This film literally blew me away because it does everything right.
The dialogue is so witty and biting. It has the perfect balance of comedy and drama. The film is funny and sad at the same time. The story is about Pat (Bradley Cooper) who has just finished a stint in a mental hospital. His mother (Jacki Weaver) picks him up early. His father (Robert Deniro) is not too sure Pat is ready to come home but he genuinely loves his son. Deniro plays a sports bookie who has OCD issues with his favorite football team The Philadelphia Eagles. Pat is finally coming to grips with his bipolar disorder. He has a restraining order that prevents him from reuniting with his wife. It sounds crazy but stay with me; it gets even better.
Pat’s friends Ronnie (John Ortiz) and Veronica (Julia Stiles) invite him over for dinner. They also invite Veronica’s sister Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence). The dinner is entertainingly awkward as Pat and Tiffany fling one-liners at each other. It is a hilarious scene because these two are so brutally honest. There is an obvious force attracting these two toward each other. They are both wounded souls. Tiffany has major issues of her own that she is dealing with such as the death of her husband. We know right off the bat that these two were meant for each other. This is exactly why the film is so endearing. The audience wants these two to fall in love with each other. It is the journey Russell so skillfully crafts in his story that we are willing to take with these two quirky characters.
Pat so desperately wants to get his wife Nikki back. He makes it his goal in therapy. Tiffany reluctantly decides to help Pat in his quest by promising to pass a letter to Nikki for him. In return for this favor, Tiffany wants Pat to become her partner in a dance contest. You might be saying, a dance contest? It sounds cheesy but it doesn’t dominate the whole story and trust me, it fits in nicely. They practice together, try new dance steps, and awkwardly embrace each other while dealing with those around them. There is a funny scene with Pat’s friend Danny (Chris Tucker) showing them moves to “black it up”’ in his own words, their dance routine.
The ensemble cast is another element that makes the movie soar. Cooper’s Pat is a likable character. This is the best performance of his career. He handles the idiosyncrasies with charm and poise. This is not an easy role. In the wrong actor’s hands, the audience would turn against him. However, the standout performance has to go to Jennifer Lawrence. I’ve been praising her acting skills ever since she debuted in the indie film, ‘Winter’s Bone.’ She is what I call a natural born actress – on the same caliber as Natalie Portman. You can’t teach this innate gift in drama class. She deserves the Best Actress Oscar – no question. Another notable performance is Deniro as Pat’s father. It is nice to see this brilliant actor in a touching father and son role.
‘Silver Linings Playbook’ is one of those rare films that gets everything right. In Pat’s words, “If you stay positive, you have a shot at a silver lining.” You will root for him to find his true silver lining too. Check out the official trailer http://youtu.be/Lj5_FhLaaQQ.