Friday, November 16, 2012

REVIEW: Even odd has its ‘Silver Lining’

The Weinstein Company
You know what it's like when you meet a family for the first time and everyone seems a little odd, maybe even frightening at times? That's the feeling evoked at the start of David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook.

Pat Solatano (Bradley Cooper) is a former teacher who has moved back in with his parents after a stint in a mental institution. It is not known why he was there only that something terrible happened and he was committed. Now after months of therapy with a kind and humorous psychiatrist (Anupam Kher), and some coaxing on his mother's part, he is released. Determined to apply his therapy to good use, Pat decides to find the silver lining in all things, read good things, and resume the life he had with his wife. One of the funnier scenes early on has Pat storming into his parents’ room in the wee hours of the morning to discuss Ernest Hemingway’s decision to end his A Farewell to Arms on a sad note. Whether he's a good guy is still unclear, but because it is Cooper (and who doesn't like him) the character is given the benefit of the doubt. 

The Weinstein Company

Pat's parents, Pat Sr. (Robert DeNiro) and Dolores (Jacki Weaver), are a middle-age, middle-income couple, whose lives revolve around their sons (one of whom is out of the picture until the end) and Philadelphia Eagle football. Pat Sr. has lost his job because of a violent incident alluded to early on and unveiled later. That's kind of strange but pretty normal considering our economy. The way that he obsesses about the Eagles, even believing his son Pat is a good luck charm despite the unlucky life he leads, is odd, but only if you do not like football or have never been a fan of something. 

The Weinstein Company
Danny (Chris Rock) is also from the institution and, though never released officially, shows up now and then, as if stowing away a few hours with the Solatano family is his own form of therapy. Rock is funny but in a more subdued way than we are used to. Instead of in-your-face humor, he steals the scenes with a chuckle and a nudge. His character is kind and we can sense there is a bond between him and Pat, perhaps formed because they are both fighting for the same thing, to be normal. 

The film is an adaptation by Russell (“The Fighter”) of Matthew Quick’s novel of the same name. Although dubbed a romantic comedy, it’s really more of a drama about life with elements of humor and romance thanks to Tiffany, the deceased policeman's widow played by Jennifer Lawrence who is introduced to Pat, on a blind date. 

Jennifer Lawrence
Her life is screwed up, too -- having buried her grief in a string of one-night-stands -- but she likes to jog. And it's this normal behavior that leads her and Pat to become friends, and eventually partners who find a way to rebuild their lives.

In the end, we understand the Solatano family and see the similarities they share with the rest of us --  trying to cope with everyday life in our own quirky way.
Russell’s portrayal of the family and outstanding performances by Cooper, Lawrence and DeNiro, could earn it an Oscar nod. There’s good reason it won the People’s Choice Award following its fall debut at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Silver Linings Playbook opens in limited release today and will roll out across the country Nov. 21.

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