"Silver Linings Playbook" (2012)

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Directed by: David O. Russell
Running time: 122 minutes

Well folks, it’s officially Oscar Season here in Australia! Finally the movies that have been nominated for one or more of the Big Five (Best Actor, Actress, Director, Script, Film) have come out or are coming out within the next week or so and we can have a look at what the Academy deems to be the best films of the previous year. The delay is irritating, but I suppose it makes sense given majority of the films that get nominated aren’t epic blockbusters so film producers are cautious as to when to release the films internationally, lest they be flops, until they have confirmation that they’ve been nominated for an Oscar and that the “Oscar buzz” will boost box office sales. At any rate, Silver Linings Playbook is my next Oscars review, with it being the only film nominated for all of the Big Five* and then some at the next Oscars! Anyhow, on with the show!

Now Showing this week is Silver Linings Playbook, directed by David O. Russell and based upon the novel of the same name by Matthew Quick. Bradley Cooper plays Pat, a man who has recently been released from a psychiatric hospital eight months after an incident (that is not initially revealed) and is trying to get his life back on track. With a plan to exercise his body and his mind, Pat sets off on a mission to reconnect with his wife whom he has not spoken to since his incarceration. However, his demons from the incident still plague him, straining his relationship with his parents and his friends around him. But perhaps through a friendship with Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a woman with some serious problems of her own, Pat can conquer his condition once and for all.

Let me start by saying that Silver Linings Playbook was much better than O. Russell’s last Oscar effort The Fighter (2010). For one, Silver Linings nailed the narrative conflict of Pat’s loyalty to his family and to what is best for himself. This conflict is interesting in Silver Linings, and all the characters involved are (for the most part) likable or at least sympathetically relatable, much unlike The Fighter. And this is where Silver Linings‘ strength comes from: our love for the characters involved (particularly Pat and Tiffany and them being an intriguingly odd couple) as it will actually make us care about what happens to them. Well done, O. Russell, you’re learning!

Silver Linings worked quite well structurally, beginning with Pat being discharged from the hospital without us having any idea what is wrong with him or why he was there. That information is slowly revealed over the first act and it made for some very suspenseful viewing. Why is everyone so nervous around Pat? Just what exactly did he do? However once this is all revealed, the film sort of descends into a conventional rom-com structure, with quirky anecdotes involving the lead couple and involving a huge buildup towards them doing something incredibly embarrassing to save the day. But to be honest, that wasn’t a bad thing; I am no where near jaded enough of a critic to hate a good quality romantic comedy! The only really big criticism I would have with the narrative of the film was that far too often did scenes culminate in a lot of characters being in a room together and just shouting. Not two people shouting at each other whilst others watched, but everyone shouting at everyone and it became so cluttered and chaotic that I often found myself being pulled out of the film and waiting for it to subside so the film could regain some focus.

I was expecting the performances in this film to be groundbreaking, given that not only has Silver Linings been nominated for the Big Five, but on top of that it is up for Best Supporting Actor and Actress as well! It is the only film this year to be nominated in all of the acting categories! But to be honest, I would say that all of the acting in the film was good, but not Oscar worthy. Don’t get me wrong, I found everyone did a good job, and I particularly enjoyed seeing Bradley Cooper in a type of role that I have never seen him in before, but I wouldn’t say that any of the performances are ones that will stick with me forever. There just wasn’t that spark, that special thing when a character is so convincing that you’re on the edge of your seat wondering what is going to happen to them, because from where you’re sitting they are a real person.

This year’s Oscars will be an interesting one, with some out of left field nominations and spectacular “snubs”, but I suppose I will reserve judgement as to which film/actor/writer/director deserves what award until I have seen as many of the films as Australian cinemas allow (I can’t find Amour or Beasts of the Southern Wild anywhere)! But bottom line, I still enjoyed Silver Linings, a feel-good rom-com that is of a higher quality than most.

Stay tuned for more Oscar films over the next few days, I have a lot more to get through!

See you next time!

*Little bit of trivia, Silver Linings is the first film since Million Dollar Baby (2004) to be nominated for the Big Five, and only three films out of the previous forty to have been nominated have ever won them all. Those three films were It Happened One Night (1934), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991).

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