Is ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ Worthy of its Oscar Buzz?
'Silver Linings Playbook' Review
According to its current television ad campaign, ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ just might be ‘the year’s best film!’ or ‘one of 2012’s top films!’ And really, what movie ad campaign doesn’t claim that, especially this time of year when every studio is jockeying for award nominations?
So - 'Silver Linings Playbook' - is it worth the Oscar buzz? I’m here to tell you – the answer is most certainly ‘yes.’ Don’t let that the movie’s undercurrents of mental illness/dysfunction deter you from seeing it. At its core is a touching romance, low on the saccharine and high on nice fireworks between leads Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper.
Cooper’s character is dealing with the fall-out of his, ahem, anger management issues that stem from a mostly treatable mental condition. It doesn’t take long to realize that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree: he’s moved back in with his parents (a reliably crotchety Robert DeNiro and a relatively unknown but touching Jacki Weaver) and their in-your-face style of tough love (or any love, for that matter) make it clear that this type of explosive behavior is definitely a family trait. Throw in some obsessive-compulsive behavior for good measure and what we’ve got is not your garden-variety romantic comedy. This one’s got some sharp edges, but these edges are what ultimately separate it from the typical offering in this genre.
Top on Cooper’s list is to fix a broken relationship that was part of the fallout of his emotional breakdown. Along the way he enlists the help of a woman (Lawrence, who’s had quite a year based on ‘Hunger Games’ alone) who is dealing with her own demons. Their sometimes awkward attempts at the small-talk required on a date reminded me of equally-as-awkward but wonderful scenes between Elizabeth McGovern and Timothy Hutton in ‘Ordinary People.’ There is absolutely no shying away from pushing each other’s buttons, often to painfully comic effect.
The combustible tendencies of both characters make for some testy but palpable chemistry. Cooper’s never been better, and handles the demands of an emotionally high-strung character with ease. Not sure what it says about Cooper that he seems to play unstable so effortlessly, but this is one of his most convincing acting turns to date.
Lawrence has already proven her formidable acting chops in her Oscar-nominated turn in 2010’s ‘Winter’s Bone’ in a riveting supporting role. She doesn’t disappoint this time out in what may be an Oscar-winning performance. It’s a difficult balance to reveal a character’s vulnerability with such powerful defense mechanisms. Lawrence is almost pitch-perfect every step of the way.
A finale that involves a tense and tender dance competition is a nice cherry on top of this splendid treat of a movie. Oddball, quirky supporting performances enhance the already almost-madcap energy of the film. It might not always be easy to watch, but ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ mostly gets it right and ultimately delivers on the strength of Cooper and Lawrence’s stand-out performances.