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ADVANCE: Silver Linings Playbook - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
ADVANCE: Silver Linings Playbook
Directing: B
Acting: A-
Writing: B-
Cinematography: B
Editing: B+

It's perfectly clear from the very beginning that Silver Linings Playbook wants you to think of it as a movie that stands apart. It's about clinically crazy people falling in love! Bipolar disorder! Depression! Obsessive-compulsive disorder! As if all these things as manifestations of personal neuroses haven't already been movie clichés since the mid-nineties. Anyone remember Jack Nicholson's lovably nutso (specifically, OCD) book writer? When he uttered that film's title in the line, "What if this is as good as it gets?", he was talking about the situations of both his character and his movie.

But, well, you know, so what? I still rather enjoyed Silver Linings Playbook. It's not nearly as special as early festival buzz might have suggested, but it has winning performances all around. Really, the actors make the movie here. God knows the script doesn’t, with absolutely zero surprises and a strict adherence to the same story beats of every single other dramedy love story ever made. The dialogue itself works fine, but that's just window dressing on a patently conventional story that's trying hard to convince you how unconventional it is.

But there's Bradly Cooper as Pat, a guy his parents have just taken out of a psychiatric facility almost on a technicality: do the doctors recommend it? "Who cares?" is basically the attitude of his mother (Jacki Weaver): the courts say it's okay. Pat's father (Robert De Niro), whose own obvious OCD is supposed to telegraph where Pat's own crazy comes from, is a little more concerned about whether it's the best idea. Pat has been under treatment for eight months due to what they discover was "undiagnosed bipolar." A horrible incident has left him estranged from his wife, but he keeps deluding himself that they are still very much in love and will eventually reconcile. I felt bad for the actress playing said wife, who is a very central figure and seen a few times, but never given a single line of dialogue. This really makes her officially more of a "featured extra" than an actress in this context.

But it's all about Tiffany, played with characteristic verve by Jennifer Lawrence, who happens to be about as crazy as Pat. She's a young widow with mental issues of her own, after her husband was killed. Pat meets Tiffany at a dinner at his best friend Ronnie's (John Ortiz) house. Ronnie's wife Veronica (Julia Stiles) has invited her sister along: that's Tiffany. Ronnie and Veronica know that both their guests are mentally unstable, and there's never really any indication that they're trying to set the two up, so why they would invite them both to the same dinner is a bit of a mystery, except for the sake of the contrived plot. I also felt bad for Julia Stiles, a truly underrated actor who is completely wasted here.

So we zero in on the "weird" relationship budding between Tiffany and Pat. There's no question that Cooper and Lawrence have chemistry. They make a perfectly good movie couple. Furthermore, Weaver and De Niro make perfectly good movie parents. There's a crackling dysfunction among them all that would never be fun in real life but somehow makes for an entertaining movie.

This is an example of a so-so movie made pretty good by the efforts of all-around great acting. It's too bad it couldn't have been a pretty good movie made great by stellar acting (or, god forbid, excellent writing), but I guess you can't have everything. For the most part there's nothing wrong or generally too unrealistic about the dialogue, so I don't really know who to blame for the hackneyed story arc, the script writer (David O. Russell) or studio executives who think this is the way movies are supposed to play out. I mean, Christ, how many "emotional" scenes of a character running down the street do we need? Okay, these two are already joggers, but still. Silver Linings Playbook, overall, is simply a pleasant but unexceptional diversion.

Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper a a match made in crazy in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

Overall: B

Opens Wednesday November 21
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