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Film Review : Silver Linings Playbook

Nov 27, 2012 01:52AM ● By Justin Buettner

Pat is sentenced to 8 months in a mental hospital after he catches his wife, Nikki, cheating and nearly beats her lover to death. Now out of the hospital Pat becomes obsessed with rekindling his marriage with Nikki again, the only problem is she has a restraining order that prohibits him from making contact. Pat then meets Tiffany, a lonely widow, who claims she is able to get Nikki a letter. In exchange she demands that Pat become her dance partner. Can two mentally unstable people form a bond to help one another?

The trouble with Silver Linings Playbook is that the characters presented on screen are just so darn unlikable that it is hard to care whether these two people really end up together. In addition it is hard to take much interest in Pat’s obsession with his cheating wife Nikki. The only thing that kept Silver Linings Playbook from being a complete disaster are the strong performances from the cast. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence do all they can to inject some spark into these despicable characters, and because of their natural charm they succeed in making a few scenes work. If only the story could have just gotten out of the way.

This is Matthew Quick’s first screenplay and gosh it needed some work. Not only was the main plot, a man going insane because he caught his wife cheating, over the top and way over played, but the subplot of the father’s obsession with the Philadelphia Eagles football team was just downright strange. No one acted naturally in this movie from a character standpoint and in return very little of it made any sense. The main character’s sob stories about how they have found themselves alone did not elicit much sympathy. In fact, the complete selfishness on display from the characters onscreen was a bit unsettling. I am under the suspicion that the writer thought he was writing a lot of comedic scenes, but nothing struck me as funny. And because the movie operates at a not so subtle shallowness aiming for jokes, nothing deep or profound happens either. The movie just feels empty of any meaning or purpose.

David O’Russell has a good track record making films, however he should stick to the films he writes himself as his three best movies are the ones he received screenwriting credit as well. The only thing I can see that David O’Russell did wrong was pick the wrong script. The movie looked good and moved at a decent pace. It unquestionably has a terrific cast who all gave the best performance possible with the material that they were given. This includes Robert DeNiro, who once was great but over the last decade he has chosen to star in bad comedies as opposed to the daring and memorable roles he is famous for. Again DeNiro plays a goofball father, but in one of the film’s best scenes DeNiro shows that he can still act. Maybe he just needs a new agent. It is a shame that the story couldn’t have focused on the father son relationship more and dropped the silly nonsensical football obsession.

I appreciate what the film set out to do. It wanted to try and tell a love story from a different point of view, but ultimately Silver Linings Playbook falls back and relies on the same contrivances that plague the romance genre of film (namely a forced big event to speed the relationship along, in this movie’s case a dance).  The only thing that Silver Linings Playbook does different is stripping its characters from any charm, likability, or any interesting traits, an essential element for any movie. If you want to see a different kind of love story done well see Moonrise Kingdom from earlier this year. If you want to see a love story between people with mental health problems that handles the subject matter correctly then watch As Good as it Gets. The only reason to watch Silver Linings Playbook would be for the performances, but there are plenty of good movie that have great performances so why watch this?

Films like Silver Linings Playbook : As Good as it Gets, Punch-Drunk Love, and Safety Not Guaranteed

Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.

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