Wes Reviews: Silver Linings Playbook

4 stars out of 4

Rated R for language and some sexual content/nudity

Running Time: 122 minutes

Imagine that you’re a married man and you find out that your wife is cheating on you. Are you not supposed to completely freak out? What type of world is this? Well, this is the world of Pat Solatano Jr., the protagonist of David O. Russell’s most recent, Academy Award-winning movie, “Silver Linings Playbook,” as played by Bradley Cooper. From his perspective, the world is crazy and he is the sane one.

The movie starts with Pat, a man in his 30s, being released from his court-ordered stay at a mental health facility and returning to his parents’ house near Philadelphia, Pa. It comes to light with his first court-mandated therapy session in the movie that he nearly beat his wife’s lover to death. From that “one” outburst came all his legal trouble—including his wife obtaining a restraining order against him.

He realizes that he has crossed the line in the past, but he struggles to realize when he is currently doing so. Of course, he is not an idiot and even he realizes something has gone terribly wrong when he, without thinking, elbows his mother (Jacki Weaver) in the face while in search of his wedding videotape. This leads to a heartbreaking moment in the movie when he’s shouting, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” while being beaten up by his father (Robert De Niro).

Indeed, this movie has nearly all of the character dysfunction that was present in Russell’s last movie, “The Fighter.” However, this time he has a much more functional, or at least structured, screenplay. Perhaps that can be credited to Russell’s writing ability as he did actually write the screenplay this time.

Pat is trying his best to live his life optimistically and win back his wife by becoming a better person when Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) shows up in his life. As Pat is forbidden to communicate with his wife in any way, he sees an opportunity to communicate through Tiffany, who may just be as crazy as he is. In return for helping him, though, Tiffany wants him to be her partner in a dance competition. And that is where things get tricky.

To be sure, these characters are extreme characters; that is what is so amazing about this movie. Look at the way it is filmed and edited: like most movies, this film is filled with dialogue-heavy scenes that are mostly filmed with the traditional over-the-shoulder shots. These dialogue scenes may have fast-paced editing, but it is not sloppy editing. Not only does it really help emphasize the clashing of personalities, but even more importantly, the viewer never feels lost as to where exactly everything in the scene is located.

While it is true that this film has much in common with other Hollywood movies these days, this movie is of value not for trying to reinvent the form, but for taking the form (the traditional Hollywood formula) to the extreme with its writing, acting, editing, and directing.