Movies: "Silver Linings Playbook" | Arts & Culture

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Movies: "Silver Linings Playbook"
Movies: "Silver Linings Playbook"

 

“Excelsior” -- ever upward -- is the motto Pat (Bradley Cooper) has been espousing ever since an act of uncontrollable violence landed him in a mental institution for eight months.

 

Now he’s been taken home by his parents (Robert De Niro and the great Australian actress Jacki Weaver, unforgettable as the matriarch of a crime family in the 2010 drama “Animal Kingdom”), where he spends his time working to stay in shape and pining for his estanged wife, Nikki.

 

There’s conflict at home.  Pat’s dad is almost as nutty as he is, barred from attending the games of his beloved Philadelphia Eagles because of his many fights, and obsessed with assuring the team’s victories by making sure all the TV remotes are lined up just so.  Pat doesn’t make things easier with his sudden fits of manic behavior, usually during the wee small hours of the morning.

 

But just when you think the family drama has dragged on too long, Pat meets someone new.  Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence, “Winter’s Bone” and, of course, “The Hunger Games”) is a recent widow, the sister of an old friend’s wife (Julia Stiles, in a nice cameo).  She’s got some problems of her own, and practically her first chat with Pat involves the various meds both have been on.

 

And here the movie picks up.  

 

Pat wants Tiffany to help him get through to Nikki, despite a restraining order against any contact.  Tiffany wants something else from Pat:  to be her partner in an upcoming dance contest.  Their partnership is constantly being undermined by Pat’s lack of any social graces: “You say more inappropriate things than appropriate things,” she tells him.

 

“Silver Linings Playbook” was scripted and directed by David O. Russell, who gave us such terrific earlier films as “The Fighter” and the Gulf War movie “Three Kings.”  (It’s based on a novel by Matthew Quick.)  As with both those movies, it draws heavily on its cast performance, and everyone involved rises to the occasion -- and could bring some Oscar nods.  

 

Cooper, best known for his comic “Hangover” roles, is both sympathetic and aggravating as the recovering mental patient.  Lawrence rises far above her Katniss Everdeen role as a complicated woman whose troubles reflect Pat’s.  De Niro, lately almost a parody of his earlier acting stints, is believable as the obsessive yet loving father.  Weaver also compels as a mother who only wants the best for her struggling family.

 

And there are some strong supporting performances as well, including Chris Tucker, overcoming his clownish movie past as a fellow mental patient;  John Ortiz as Pat’s old buddy, with troubles of his own;  Anupam Kher as an avuncular psychologist and rabid Eagles fan;  and Patsy Meck as the principal of the school where Pat once taught, comically terrified by his unexpected reappearance.  

 

“Silver Linings Playbook” was shot by Masanobu Tokayamagi (“The Grey”) and features a varied music score, ranging from Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash to The White Stripes, all arranged by the talented Danny Elfman (“The Simpsons”).  It’s rated R for some very brief nudity, a quick scene of violence and adult language, but I think older teenagers could certainly see it.

 

I give it a B-Plus.

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