November 16, 2012

THE SHOWBUZZDAILY REVIEW: “Silver Linings Playbook”


SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK:  Don’t Get Sold Out – A Rom-Com With Dance Moves All Its Own

Anyone who doubts that Jennifer Lawrence is a real-thing, big-time movie star should get thee hence to a theater showing SILVER-LININGS PLAYBOOK, opening today in limited release and gradually spreading across the through through the holiday (and awards) season. Even in a role for which she is, strictly speaking, miscast (at 22, she’s not the ideal choice to play a widow, even a young one), once introduced into the story, she folds Playbook into her pocket and takes it home.

While Lawrence may be the most stunning virtue of Playbook, she’s far from the only one.  She and Bradley Cooper have the kind of crazy chemistry that makes one happy they’ve already shot a second movie together, and the supporting cast includes Robert DeNiro in one of his better roles of the past decade, along with Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker, John Ortiz, Paul Herman and Julia Stiles.  Writer and director David O. Russell (adapting Matthew Quick’s novel) has recaptured the nutty verve of his Flirting With Disaster, but having tasted his first substantial success with The Fighter, he’s combined the comedy with that hit’s populist appeal.  The result is considerably less edgy than might have been expected from Russell, but tremendously entertaining.

The set-up of Playbook could have been the basis of many a Sundance indie, and it takes a while to realize that this time, Russell is aiming straight for the mainstream.  Pat Solitano (Cooper), having caught his wife in flagrante delicto, has suffered a complete, violent  meltdown, made worse by the bipolar condition he’s had for years.   He’s lost his job and been institutionalized, and now he’s been freed into the custody of his parents (DeNiro and Jacki Weaver). Pat is insistent on avoiding medication, determined to prove that he can make things work by maintaining a positive attitude and distracting himself from his misery (which is relives whenever “My Cherie Amour” plays, since that song was on when he found his ex-wife), but he’s hanging on by his fingernails.   An old friend introduces Tiffany (Lawrence) into his life, and while that initially seems like a very bad idea–she’s a mess herself, prone to acting out because she can’t express her grief–and Pat wants no part of her, she insists on not going away.  The plot comes to encompass everything from the football craziness of Philadelphia Eagle fans to some remarkably thrilling–which isn’t the same as good–ballroom dancing.

The dramatic arc of Playbook doesn’t have the originality of Flirting With Disaster; we know where Pat and Tiffany are headed, and we can make pretty safe guesses about how they’re going to get there.  In a movie like this, though, charm and chemistry are everything, and Playbook overflows with it.  Cooper has never played out-of-control like this before, and it turns out that he’s great at it.  In a role that couldn’t possibly be farther from Katniss Everdeen, Lawrence gets huge laughs (she has a football-themed set-piece rant late in the story that would stop the show if this were a play) while never losing Tiffany’s underlining vulnerability, and you can’t help rooting for her and Pat as a couple. When the two of them scream at each other in the street, their dialogue plays like a mating dance with firecrackers for music, Cooper always just a step behind the force of nature that Lawrence is here.  The supporting cast rides the crazy-kilter mood-swings of the story expertly.

There isn’t much to Playbook, but there wasn’t much to Moonstruck, either, and that ran its feel-good wave all the way to the podium at the Oscars.   With Harvey Weinstein guiding Playbook‘s release, and with awards season likely to be dominated by heavy-duty works like Lincoln and Les Miserables, this could be the acclaimed picture people actually want to see.




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About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."