Friday, December 7, 2012

David O. Russell Makes the Right Call With a Phenomenal Cast: Our Review of "Silver Linings Playbook" (2012)

Directed By: David O. Russell (The Fighter

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jackie Weaver

Rating: R for language and some sexuality/nudity

Run Time: 2 hours, 2 minutes

Synopsis: Pat (Cooper) is released from his psychiatric hospital into the care of his parents (De Niro & Weaver), 8 months after beating up his wife's lover. In an attempt to get back together with his wife, Pat tries to become a better person by reading classic books, working out and agreeing to help a new friend, the recently widowed Tiffany (Lawrence), compete in a dance contest.


Andrew: Hello readers! Earlier this week Sarah and I took a day trip down to New York City to take in some delicious food from some of our favorite food trucks (shout out to Wafles & Dinges [@waffletruck] and Trusty Truck [@trustytruck]!) and to catch a showing of David O. Russell’s latest directorial effort, Silver Linings Playbook! Starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro, it’s based on the Matthew Quick’s 2008 novel “The Silver Linings Playbook”.

Cooper (The Hangover) plays Pat, a Philadelphia schoolteacher who is brought home by his parents from the psychiatric hospital 8 months after he found his wife cheating on him and had a psychotic breakdown, which included him beating the crap out of his wife’s lover. De Niro (Meet the Parents) plays Pat’s dad, Pat, Sr., who suffers from OCD and who, after having recently retired, has become a bookie to raise money so he can open his own restaurant. And Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games) plays Tiffany, sister-in-law to Pat’s best friend and a recent widow, who is also a little crazy and takes a shine to Pat. Basically everyone in this film is just a little bit crazy.

Sarah: Yeah…and there are a lot of other recognizable faces in the movie, like Julia Stiles (The Bourne Ultimatum) and Chris Tucker (Rush Hour).

A: This is a movie that we've wanted to see for quite some time. We've been hearing a lot of great things about the performances from Cooper, Lawrence and De Niro, but because it’s only in limited release so far we had to go to Manhattan to see it. Now that we HAVE seen Silver Linings Playbook, what did you think of it?

S: I liked it, but I believe that the strength of the movie lies solely in its cast.

Jennifer Lawrence (left) and Bradley Cooper headline a fantastic cast in
David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook Expect Oscar love for them.

A: What do you mean solely?

S: You know…if a movie has a good script and a good plot, generally speaking it can be carried by different actors. I’m not sure this movie would have translated as well as it did if they had cast it must differently.

Basically I think the cast did a fantastic job and that’s the primary reason this film has been getting so much good buzz. It’s almost purely on the actors involved.

A: Are you talking about any one actor in particular?

S: Oh no, the whole cast does a great job. It’s the epitome of an ensemble cast. You have kind of every facet of crazy portrayed in the film by the various actors and it really comes across as genuine. From the normal guy who’s having marital problems and can’t really stand his life to a grief stricken woman who can’t really handle it all…

A: Then you have the OCD dad…

S: Who’s possibly bi-polar and has rage issues, and we can’t forget Pat’s older brother who is incredibly passive aggressive, just like their mother is. There are just some really interesting dynamics that come together and create a very interesting story. And I give 100% props to the cast, because I think if they had cast any one of these characters wrong, it might have been a failure.

A: I don’t think it would have been a failure per se, but I think you’re spot on that the strength of Silver Linings Playbook is the cast, and particularly the leads. Bradley Cooper is fantastic. He’s hilarious, he’s scary at times, he’s a little bit heartbreaking at times. Jennifer Lawrence is…

S: Crazy!

A: She’s incredibly crazy, but it’s more of how I've been reading all over the place about how electric she is and how she’s just so vibrant on the screen. And all these people are absolutely right. The minute she is on the screen…she’s not glowing, that’s the not the word, but…

S: She has a screen presence...

A: Yes, and she has a certain electricity that you can feel as soon as she shows up.

S: Which I think is interesting because, in my opinion, it’s not something we really saw in The Hunger Games or X-Men: First Class, this kind of electricity. She’s really coming in to her own. Now, to be fair, we haven’t seen Winter’s Bone

A: I think we really need to now.

S: Definitely, because we've heard nothing but good things about her in that movie, and obviously she was nominated for an Oscar for it. But most of the world was introduced to her acting through Katniss, and I think that if you based her acting solely on that performance, as great as she was, you’re still doing her a disservice.

A: Absolutely. Now, Lawrence and Cooper aren't the only two…

S: This is the best thing De Niro has been in in a LONG time.

A: It’s the best thing he’s been in in a REALLY long time. This is the kind of performances that reminds you that Robert De Niro is still one of the best living actors alive. Yes, he’s had a lot of crap roles the last decade or so, but he used to be like this all the time in his films.

Just like Cooper, he’s funny, he’s heartbreaking, he’s scary…

S: It’s infuriating that he hasn't been like this in so long!

A: De Niro and Cooper were perfectly cast to play father and son.

S: They play off each other so well!

Robert De Niro's role as Pat, Sr., is the best role he's had in God knows how long.
He and Cooper are perfectly cast as father and son.

A:  And Jackie Weaver (Animal Kingdom) did well as Pat’s demure mother; Chris Tucker doesn't have a ton of screen time, but when he is on screen as Pat’s crazy friend, Danny, he’s really funny. Just everybody involved is great.

But I think those three primary actors in Cooper, Lawrence and De Niro absolutely bring it and I fully expect them to get award-season love. But we can talk about awards towards the end.

S: Yeah, we don’t need to go there yet.

A: Back to the other part of your opening statement though, I felt like the story line itself…it’s unconventional in that…at times it feels like it should be a character study on what mentally ill people are like and how it can affect a family, and then at times it’s more of a dark comedy, before turning into a romantic comedy…you know, it never really wears one hat. Maybe to a detriment it goes between those three things…

S: Yeah, I wasn't really a huge fan of the story. It was good, sure, but it didn't really do it for me. I don’t know, I kind of wanted this one to touch me. Like…I see this one along the same lines as Seeking a Friend For the End of the World in that it’s a dark comedy that touches some interesting issues, plus it's also a romantic comedy. And that movie really touched me. This one? Not so much.

You know, at the end I was like, “Aww!” But I wasn't all verklempt. It just…I’ll say it again, it showcased a phenomenal cast, but I was left wanting more from the plot.

A: I disagree with you just a little bit, though you make you a good comparison to Seeking a Friend For the End of the World, and you also mentioned this as we were leaving the theatre, this movie didn't have the same effect on you that Crazy, Stupid, Love did last year...

S: Right!

A: So to that end, this one fell just a little bit short, and I would agree with you on that.

S: Well and I'm not completely trying to compare the two films, because the two are nothing alike. But just from a movie aspect, I'm waiting for another Crazy, Stupid, Love. For a movie that just sucks me in, holds me there, and when the lights come up at the end it has be going, "Oh my gosh, it's over already?!"

You know, I want time to fly by when I'm watching a movie. I want it to completely suck me in and want me to crave more when it's finished. Do you know what I mean?

A: I absolutely know what you mean. I'm just saying I disagree with you a bit there. Silver Linings Playbook did just that for me. I was interested in the characters, I was very interested in Pat's grand scheme of getting fit and reading all of his wife's high school English curriculum books to show he's trying to work on their marriage. Obviously it's a stupid idea, but I found it interesting that Pat couldn't tell that because of how his mental illness couldn't let him deal with that in a healthy way.

I like where the film goes with how Tiffany affects him and how he affects Tiffany. And I like the sports aspect! Sports, and in particular Philadelphia sports, play a huge role in this film.

S: Being even more particular, we're talking about the Philadelphia Eagles.

A: Yes. I loved how Pat's dad really wanted his son to watch the games with him because, thanks to his OCD, not only did he fee like he needed Pat there so the Eagles would win, but he also wanted to spend time with Pat because he thinks having not focused enough love and time to Pat when he was younger may have attributed to his mental illness as an adult. Plus he's a bookie and he needs certain things to happen to make money, so he feels that Pat not watching the games with him is somehow letting him down. All that stuff kinda got to me, mainly because De Niro has a couple of really great scenes and is able to pull that off.

And then Lawrence's Tiffany, she really needs Pat, too. She's trying to move past a recently deceased husband, so when Pat does something and lets her down, it really tears at you. And all of this builds up to a scene between De Niro and Lawrence that...

A & S [in unison]: Is the best scene in the whole film.

S: Yes! That scene is THE best scene in the whole film. It actually made me uncomfortable because...and I'd love to see an interview with both De Niro and Lawrence, because she basically reams Robert De Niro out! I was like, "[in a hushed voice] Oh my gosh! She's not allowed to do that!" [laughs]

I was just like, "Oh honey, he's really famous, I don't know if you're allowed to do that yet." I mean, it was a PHENOMENAL scene. It was the best, between the two of them.

A: I like how the movie essentially entirely builds up to that one point. It had great build up and a great pay-off. That said, the film maybe climaxes a little too earlier, because the big dance sequence at the end didn't have quite the same effect on me when it was supposed to.

S: And I think maybe that's why I give the story line a little bit of a hard time, because the end wasn't what the film was really building up to. It was in a way, but it also clearly wasn't.

A: And again, the film wears many hats, so one thread of the plot did lead up to climactic dance scene...

S: But it wasn't as big of a build up as the mental illness...

A: Yes, and the relationships between Pat, his dad and Tiffany all came to a head in a different thread. But I was okay with that. Plus I thoroughly enjoyed the dance scene! Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are actually quite good at dancing!

S: For what they had to do it was fun.

A: The whole movie was fun to me. It does gloss over some aspects of mental illness towards the end, especially when Pat's psychiatrist turns into more of a sports buddy than the reasonable doctor he is in the first half of the film.

S: Yeah, the dynamics changed there and that kind of threw me a bit.

A: So I mark it down a bit there, but to be fair, sometimes when it comes to sports and things like die-hard Philadelphia Eagles fans, it's not so unbelievable that outside of the doctor's office Pat's psychiatrist would bond with him over their shared fandom.

S: It's not, but even after that, it bugged me a bit.

A: Here's something - we mentioned in our last review, for Killing Them Softly, something that we did like about that movie were some of the directorial choices in regards to camera angles. The same thing holds true for me here; I really liked David O. Russell's insistence on framing shots where two characters are conversing face-to-face, where he always shot over one person's shoulder and framed the other person that way. So it looks like you, the viewer, are standing right there and looking over one person's shoulder. Every single time.

S: I didn't notice that! 

A: A lot of times in a movie, with a scene like that, the camera is just a one-shot on the person talking. But in this movie, like when Pat and Tiffany are talking/shouting in the street, we're looking at Tiffany from over Pat's shoulder and vice versa. I found that interesting.

Just like this shot!

S: That is. I'd like to go back and look at that.

A: It felt like we were truly looking in on these people's lives, so when they did start shouting at each other or going a bit crazy, it made me feel a bit uncomfortable...

S: Because you felt like you were really there. I gotchya. Hmm. Interesting.

Look, I thought the movie was good, and I thought the cast was phenomenal. I think this is one to see in theatres if for nothing else but to see the acting in it. I haven't seen Bradley Cooper be this good in anything else before.

A: This is hands down the best thing he's ever been in...

S: And the best performance he's ever given! He became famous in comedies, but he's an actor and he wants to prove himself as a true actor and I think this was a good one for him to do that in.

A: But he was still funny!

S: He's very funny!

A: All his little quips and one-liners are hilarious.

S: Yeah, he kind of has diarrhea of the mouth.

A: His rapid-fire delivery is fantastic. I truly hope he gets nominated for an Oscar for this.

S: I do, too!

A: He won't win...

S: No, he won't, not with Daniel Day-Lewis to go up against, but he was still phenomenal. When he has his big blow-up scene? It was terrifying. He's this pretty boy, Bradley Cooper, but in that scene he's not pretty. He's pretty intense.

A: I think most people will come out of this movie, though, talking about De Niro, who deserves a Supporting Actor Oscar nom, because again this is the best thing he's been in in a long time; and Jennifer Lawrence...hands the front-runner for the Best Actress Oscar.

S: Well she'll be blown out of that category by the end of this month I think.

A: By who?

S: Anne Hathaway?

A: Not for Best Actress. Anne will probably be up for Supporting Actress.

S: Hmm. True. Fantine is only a supporting role, I guess.

A: If Hathaway is up for Best Actress, which I don't expect because she's only supposed to be in Les Mis for about ten minutes, I think Lawrence is the front-runner. From what we've heard her biggest competition will probably come from Helen Hunt, so far. [Editor's note: We forgot about Jessica Chastain, too.] But Lawrence is electrifying. When she goes crazy? She's scary. When she's funny, she's really funny.

S: Well what happens with her, it carries to her eyes. She's terrifying! Because she wears a lot of dark makeup in the film so it gives her eyes a little bit of a darker look at times.

A: And she's sultry. Her introduction scene, there's a shot where Tiffany's brother-in-law tries to get everyone to come on a tour of their house, and Lawrence turns to leave but looks back over her shoulder to ask if Pat is coming and she kind of does this little flirty thing...

S: Yeah, that's in the trailer.

A: It's great! And she does that sort of thing throughout the film.

S: Well that's part of her character, and she plays it really well.

A: Real quick, a couple things I want to point out and put down in our review. Lawrence? When she says the f-word? She says that better than I've ever seen before! And she says it in so many different ways and they're all spectacular.

S: And it's not used incorrectly. It's not just used as another word in a sentence. She uses it as a punch, as a weapon.

A: Yes! It's like she's stabbing the other person with it. The other thing I liked was a little nod to Bradley Cooper, there's a scene where Pat and Tiffany are walking outside of a movie theatre on Halloween night and the movie name up on the marquee is The Midnight Meat Train, which was a horror movie Cooper was in that came out in 2008.

S: Oh! Cool!

A: But then there's an anachronism, a little mistake they make that could have been caught, which is when Pat and his brother go to an Eagles game the movie has a shot of a bunch of fans walking towards the stadium. It's just a simple cutaway shot, but it was obviously shot recently because there's a fan wearing a Nnamdi Asomugha jersey, and he didn't start playing for the Eagles until 2011 while the movie takes place in 2008.

S: How do you know it's supposed to take place in 2008?

A: Because they say so explicitly at one point, and because during the best scene in the movie when Tiffany's listing dates that she was with Pat she mentions the Phillies beating the Rays in the World Series, and that was in 2008.

S: Oh. Interesting.

A: Again, it's a small thing, but for a sports fan like me it was an easy mistake to catch, and it's something that easily could have been caught in the editing phrase.

S: Like what your extras are wearing, don't just have your extras wear whatever they have at home [laughs].

A: Exactly. A minor thing, but those were just some observations I made.

S: Yeah, that's something I'm sure a lot of sports fans might catch. Okay, so final thoughts on Silver Linings Playbook?

A: It's one you need to see in theatres for the performances.

S: Yeah, because this won't be out on DVD by the time the Oscars roll around most likely. And people are going to be talking about these performances and they'll be getting nominated for awards.

A: It's not the best movie of the year...

S: No, it's not.

A: But I do see it getting a Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards. I see a Best Adapted Screenplay nom and maybe even Best Director nom, too. Will it be in my top ten? I don't know. But I really enjoyed it while we were watching it.

S: Yeah, I'm glad that we saw it, too, if only for the performances.

Final Verdict: A must-see in theatres!

(Individual Scores - S: 4/5  A: 4.5/5)

Photo Courtesies: Comingsoon.netScreen Rant...By Ken LevineTHR


  1. I think I'll check this out. Been on the fence about it because I'm really divided when it comes to David O. Russell (he gets great performances from his casts but the films tend to lack elsewhere).

    Good review guys, one of your lengthier ones too.

    1. Definitely give it a shot because of the lead performances. Russell makes some directorial choices that are a little weird at times, but overall it's pretty damn funny and Cooper, Lawrence and De Niro rock it out.