I was very pleasantly surprised by this one. David O. Russell films often leave me feeling a little bit off, and with the combination mental health and football fan angles in this one, I was afraid it would be overly simplistic and/or maudlin and/or too sports-related. It’s actually a very enjoyable, old-fashioned romantic comedy/drama, very well balanced between the main character’s attempts to get healthy and his budding romance.
I’ve liked Bradley Cooper since Alias days, so I’m glad he’s getting some great parts like this and recognition for them. And he’s very good as a bipolar guy just getting out of the hospital, moving back in with his parents, and trying to figure out how to reconnect with his wife…who has a restraining order against him. He’s a bit delusional about her, but it’s very believable and even if you wish you could smack it out of him, you know it’s just something he’s got to learn for himself.
Helping him out is Jennifer Lawrence, who’s not necessarily totally stable herself (her cop husband died in a freak accident, which sent her into some fairly self-destructive behaviors), but is trying to find an outlet through dance, and she draws Cooper in. Meanwhile, Cooper’s dad, Robert De Niro, thinks Cooper is some kind of lucky unicorn whose presence helps win the Philadelphia Eagles win the games De Niro is bookmaking for. The whole movie’s full of dysfunctional people, but the movie neither chastises them nor demeans them as cutely eccentric – they’re merely people trying to get along with who they are and what they’ve got.
I usually say I don’t like romantic comedies, but there is a formula of romantic comedies that I do like, and this is it. It isn’t wholly focused on whether the girl and guy get together – they’ve each got their own stuff going on, and their interactions feel real within that context. Jennifer Lawrence has proven to be a powerhouse when working with Russell in particular, and this is no exception. The scene where she dresses De Niro down with all the stats about Eagles games was cheer-worthy. So great.
There are romantic comedy cliches involved here, especially toward the end, but by then I was enough invested in these people and their situation that I was plenty happy to go along with them, especially as they’re pretty classic narrative tropes that have earned their cliche-ness. Despite my initial reservations, the film won me over completely by the end.
Oh, and there’s not really that much football stuff. :)
Stats and stuff…
written and directed by David O. Russell
starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver
I’m ranking all my Challenge films on Flickchart (as I do all the films I see), a movie-ranking website that asks you to choose your favorite between two movies until it builds a ranked list of your favorites. Just for fun, I will average out the rankings and keep a running tally of whose recommendations rank the highest. When you add a film to Flickchart, it pits it against films already on your chart to see where it should fall. Here’s how Silver Linings Playbook entered my chart:
The Silver Linings Playbook > The Blue Angel
The Silver Linings Playbook > The French Connection
The Silver Linings Playbook < Anna Karenina (2012)
The Silver Linings Playbook < Belle de jour
The Silver Linings Playbook < Planet Terror
The Silver Linings Playbook > Changing Husbands
The Silver Linings Playbook > Ex Machina
The Silver Linings Playbook > Bedazzled (1967)
The Silver Linings Playbook > Prometheus
The Silver Linings Playbook > Rashomon
The Silver Linings Playbook > Contagion
The Silver Linings Playbook < To Kill a Mockingbird
Final #813 out of 3707 films on my chart (78%)
It is now my #1 David O. Russell film, my #2 Bradley Cooper film, my #1 Jennifer Lawrence film, my #6 Robert De Niro film, and my #19 film of 2012.
Silver Linings Playbook was recommended by Elisabeth Miller, a real-life friend. Averaging together this #813 ranking with my #1620 ranking of her other film, Requiem for a Dream, gives Elisabeth an average ranking of 1216.
A few more screenshots…