“Excelsior!” That’s Pat’s motto during the course of David O. Russell’s surprisingly human twist of a romantic comedy. Pat is a bipolar man who is determined to make the best of situations by always looking for a silver lining. This, of course, doesn’t always happen with him and even though his personal mantra means “upwards” or “excellent”, his life becomes anything but that.“Playbook” makes Cooper seem effortlessly helpless and you can’t help but empathize with the character that Cooper and Russell have created together. Pat is hopelessly obsessed with his estranged wife, Nicki, who rarely has any screen time as a physical being but fills up plenty of the dialogue between Cooper and a surprising Jennifer Lawrence.
Jennifer Lawrence was launched into pop fame when she took on the iconic role of Katniss Everdeen in the adaptation of Suzan Collins’s The Hunger Games. But before she donned the bow and arrow we have to remember that first she received an Oscar nomination for Winter’s Bone and then came Jodie Foster’s “The Beaver”. She was in a handful of other films but nothing of the magnitude of the Hunger Games. Once she appeared in the teen film I had basically written her off as an actress, thinking that there was no diversity to her. Boy, was I wrong! As Tiffany, a woman who’s recently out of work and just lost her husband, Lawrence throws all caution to the wind and becomes the best part of “Silver Linings Playbook”. Her lines are always crystal and well-executed and thought through; and her emotions are spot on. When her character is telling Pat a story filled with horror and emotion, Lawrence doesn’t cry as the typical Hollywood actress would. Instead, she lets the emptiness show in her face and the shock in her eyes. No tears, those have all been shed before. The story is told in a somewhat matter-of-fact manner, just wanting the truth to be out there without having to relive the experience. In essence, a very human action, for it reminded me of times when people have shared their stories with me and they weren’t breaking down and crying, that time had passed.
Robert de Niro always impresses and no one can quite deliver a line like he can. As Pat’s father he is obsessive compulsive and superstitious but never in the typical way. What I really enjoyed about this film is the way it carries itself. Much of the film is centered around mental illnesses but what “Playbook” manages to do much more so than any film in the past, is humanize the symptoms. It’s the subtleties that make the person “crazy’’ if I’m allowed to use such a crass term. Cooper and de Niro both suffer from slight mental illnesses but they don’t show them all the time. Sometimes they just act like a normal family and sometimes you couldn’t guess that there was anything wrong with these people. Thank you, David O. Russell for a little fresh air
.My only issue with “Playbook” is the script. Sometimes the lines are heavy with cliche and the plot isn’t always as spectacular as its cast, but they pull it off with flying colors. Comedy shouldn’t always be about laughs, although there are some funny spots in “Playbook”. This wacky, romantic comedy is fun and easy to digest. It’s not quite as touching or as funny as what I consider to be the last good comedy (Little Miss Sunshine) but it is a significant film deserving of all the attention that it’s getting. Cooper and Lawrence have the most amazing chemistry on screen that it practically boils over. I wish to see more of these two actors together in many more films, which is a good sign that Russell achieved what he was aiming for.
“Playbook” is a film about family and the ups and downs of life which will be seen many times and quoted from for many years. The leading couple alone makes this films worth seeing.
Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4