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Stars align in Silver Linings Playbook

YEP YEP – The best romantic comedies arrive when two stars line up at just the right time in their careers, the director is in command, and the writing doesn’t pander.

It’s the genre every Hollywood super agent covets most for his or her star clients. Mainly, because it is so hard to get the chemical symbiotic connection right.

The romantic comedy stumbles and fumbles far more often than it hits its mark and yanks at the targeted heart-strings.

So then let’s give it up for David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, one of the sweetest, most originally heartfelt films to come along in years.

With 2010’s The Fighter, and now SLP, Russell has firmly established himself as one of Hollywood’s freshest and most thoughtful writer-directors. If you’re a fan of Kelly‘s Heroes, do yourself a favor and go back and check out his Persian Gulf War caper flick, Three Kings (1999).

The film opens with Bradley Cooper’s high strung ‘Pat’ being released from a mental institution after serving an eight month stint for brutally whooping up on his wife’s lover after he catches the two in their shower.

He returns home to live with his folks, played by the ubiquitous Robert DeNiro and Australian dynamo Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom). We quickly see where poor ‘Pat’ inherited his obsessive personality and short fuse.  Dad is an aspiring bookie Eagles fanatic with remote control issues, and mom wears a perma-grin and offers up “crabby snacks and home mades” as a solution to any and all conflicts.

All ‘Pat’ wants to do is get his wife back, but his newly acquired philosophy of positive thoughts in search of silver linings is easier said than done.

Life at home with the rents is gonna be pretty miserable. Until…

‘Pat’ gets invited to an old pal’s house for dinner – and the main course is going to be the sister of the hostess, a misunderstood nymphomaniac widow with a death stare and a quick wit.

Yep, the misunderstood nymphomaniac widow – ‘Tiffany’ – is played by Jennifer Lawrence.

The film that unfolds after that first dinner “date” is full of surprises and consistently engaging.

‘Tiffany’ offers to go around the restraining order and get a love letter from ‘Pat’ to his estranged wife, and in return she demands he partner with her in a dance contest she has her heart set on. Okay, not so original; however…it works, entirely because these two actors are so likable.

It’s a complicated quid pro quo, one that ultimately comes off a little clunky; but the chemistry between Cooper and Lawrence is so rich and urgent that the contrivances and sloppy editing fall by the way side in awe of these two stars digging their “rom-com” flags deep into the soil.

My boys and I often make fun of films with “obligatory” and predictable progress montages. They usually come off as bogus/lazy narrative devices more than inspired storytelling.

Not the case in Silver Linings Playbook. 

There is a montage between the two stars, as they begin to take the dancing more seriously and their relationship begins to blossom, that fills the screen with life. Set to the sublime Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash collaboration, Girl From the North Country, and including an iphone insert moment of Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor’s phenomenal “Moses supposes” dancing number from Singing in the Rain, it’s one of those slices of movie magic where your eyes swell up and you maybe even start looking for your own silver linings.

It’s been nearly a decade since James Frey came out with his wildly popular but controversial “memoir” A Million Little Pieces. Still no movie. Maybe because it would be so difficult to cast. I think Bradley Cooper could pull it off. He’s an edgy, incredibly smart, and extremely charismatic actor. I would never have guessed from Wedding Crashers that he could – or would – become such a capable leading man.

As for Jennifer Lawrence, I’d pay to see her in anything. It was a no-brainer after seeing her in Winter’s Bone that she would fast track it to the top of the A list. Man, she’s good. Maybe even Oscar good.

3 thoughts on “Stars align in Silver Linings Playbook

  1. Pingback: 3 films with themes that bind us all | Lars Beckerman

  2. Pingback: Mark your Oscar ballots, here are the winners | Lars Beckerman

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