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Silver Linings Playbook a multi-genre wonder

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Every now and then, a movie comes along that makes you feel good without being overly cheesy. Director David O. Russell made his comeback a couple of years back with the Oscar winning crowd-pleaser, “The Fighter,” and now he is back in action (with even less action). “Silver Linings Playbook” is a romantic dramedy about a mentally unstable man named Pat, who, after being released from a psychiatric hospital, moves back in with his parents and is trying to rebuild his life by thinking positively and finding the silver lining in just about everything. When he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), an equally damaged girl with emotional issues of her own, his self-help adventure takes a new turn that will change both their lives as they help each other find that silver lining.

Numerous things jump out at me when reflecting on this film. The acting is one of the strongest parts, mainly because it is so unexpectedly good. Bradley Cooper has yet to give us a bad performance (at least none that I’ve seen), but never before has he given us one quite like this. He is Oscar-worthy in this movie. Yes, I said it. Bradley Cooper from “The Hangover” and “The A-Team” has now given us a performance worthy of praise and awards. His character’s ways of dealing with grief and the curve balls that life throws at him are really unpredictable and amazing to watch. Because of his constant mood swings, you never know where he is really going to go or what he will say. Will he cry? Will he yell? Will he just flat out ignore it? You can never be sure what he will do, but one thing is for sure — he’s excellent.

Jennifer Lawrence is just as good, if not better, as Tiffany. She says whatever comes to her mind and isn’t sorry for it. She is full of emotion and we get a peek into her life little by little as the movie goes along, and every bit of it is interesting. We are hooked from the start, not because it is thrilling, but because we are interested and concerned for the characters. Additional performances that are noteworthy come from Robert De Niro who plays Pat’s father. Surprise, Robert De Niro is good in a movie. Who would have thought? But he hasn’t been this good in a movie in years — or at least the ones I’ve seen him in. Chris Tucker is also in this movie and he isn’t anything great among all these other actors, but holds his own and actually says some funny things from time to time.

The way this story is written is full of clever twists and real human problems. Nothing about it is fantasy, yet you feel magic happening on the screen nonetheless. Watching these characters interact and dive into each others lives, you can’t help but care for them and be sucked in. The setup foreshadows the type of ending this movie will have. Some will complain it’s a little too cheap and easy to compare to what was leading up to it. Pat states his thoughts on the classic novels he makes an effort to read over the course of the story, and he is furious by the amount of negativity found in these so called “works of art.” He thinks that these should not be taught to children, who need to know about positive messages. This reflects both his intentions and the inevitable ending to come. Whether you think it’s cheesy or well done, it makes sense with the story and it’s the way it needed to end. The script also walks that fine line between laugh-out-loud funny and heartbreaking. I love scripts that can do that because that’s what life is. Life is not a slapstick comedy where funny things happen all the time, nor is it a drama where things are tension-filled or full of sorrow. In a movie where the mission is to provide an accurate portrayal of life, there needs to be a mix of the two, and this movie does that perfectly.

Pat actually reminds me a lot of Freddie, the lead character in “The Master,” in a lot of ways. Both are disturbed mentally by events in their lives and both are given the chance to live among society again to find their way and who they want to be. Both men are also on a quest to win back a girl they used to have, and who is driving them crazy throughout the story. One character is shown in a dramatic form, the other is the more comedic one. I found easier to relate and get involved with Pat than I did with Freddie. Not to downplay the amazing performance that Joaquin Phoenix gave in his film, but as a viewer I just felt a large space between us. Cooper portrayed Pat in a way that I felt like I could be friends with him and I was concerned and interested every step of the way for him.

Some see this as a romantic comedy. I never thought of it as that type of movie, but I can understand why people would get that impression. This isn’t a romantic story, even though there are elements of that. It’s just a story about struggling people trying to rebuild their lives after traumatizing experiences have knocked them to the ground. It really had a little bit every genre when you think about it. Okay, maybe not horror or action, but comedy, drama, romance and even sports all come together to form a real human story that is both an entertaining and reflective journey.

“Silver Linings Playbook” is one of the best films of 2012, and after the rave reviews and word of mouth it’s been getting, I can see it going all the way this awards season. The cast definitely deserves it.

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