Movie Review: Silver Linings Playbook

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Movie Review: Silver Linings Playbook. **** out of 4. Starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, and reintroducing Chris Tucker. Written and Directed by David O. Russell. 

Every time I sit down to write a movie review, I tell myself I’m going to write a normally-formatted, brief movie review like the one’s I read in the newspaper each Friday. Then, inevitably, something about the movie or my reflections on it turn the review into a grand reflection on politics, theology, sociology, or some other analysis resulting in a few sentences of movie review at the end.

I was looking forward to Silver Linings Playbook so much that I was certain that it couldn’t be my first “normal” review. I was right. But nor is there one primary part of the film I can focus on.  Instead, I’ll break down why this film is one of my favorites of the year and will inevitably be one of my favorite movies of the past decade.

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– A Story, Script, and Direction that perfectly walks a dangerous tightrope

Psychological and psychiatric issues. Undiagnosed bipolar disorder. Not being able to forgive yourself or others. Being delusional. Obsessive compulsive disorder. Family. Friends. Love. Dancing competitions. Romantic comedy. Dark Comedy. Drama. Heartbreak. Hearts bursting with love and joy.

These are just some of the issues that Silver Linings Playbook takes on. You want to call it a romantic comedy or a dark comedy, but there are some of the best dramatic performances and scenes of the year in it too. You want to call it feel-good, but there are times in the movie when you feel bad. (Although, aren’t some of the more uplifting films like “It’s a Wonderful Life” so inspiring because they show you the darkness of humanity before redemption happens?)

Drama and comedy. Romance and mental issues. David O. Russell’s film walks a tightrope and it does so masterfully.

Silver Linings Playbook is one of the best movies of the year because it’s a movie so hard to get made and even harder to be great.  There are tons of dramedy scripts out there, trying to combine tough life issues with feel-good comedy. So many of them fail. So many of them don’t even get made. Of the ones that do, they either try too hard to be too serious and awards-worthy or they try too hard to be dark and comedic. They don’t strike the right balance.

Silver Linings Playbook strikes the perfect balance.

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– The Performances – No weak link in a brilliant chain of acting performances

My. Goodness. I’ve always loved Bradley Cooper since his supporting stints in Alias and Jack & Bobby.  But his string of roles since he’s become a star is disappointing at best and likely multiple-Razzie worthy. So Bradley Cooper’s phenomenal performance made me happy that he finally showed his true acting chops. He’s every bit deserving of award nomination consideration. Unfortunately for him, Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance as Abraham Lincoln is one of the best performances ever.

Jennifer Lawrence is currently my favorite actress. Period. I first loved her when, in response to her Oscar nomination for Winter’s Bone (BRILLIANT MOVIE DRIVEN BY HER PERFORMANCE!), she stated that every year, she orders takeout Chinese with her best friend and watch the Oscars in their pajamas. “Guess I can’t do that this year.” She hasn’t disappointed since, as she has shown she can carry a billion dollar franchise as Katniss in The Hunger Games. And now, she shows she still can pull off drama, comedy, and dancing in the best female performance of the year. Unless Jessica Chastain (my 2nd favorite) delivers the knockout performance in Zero Dark Thirty, it’s Jennifer Lawrence’s Oscar to lose. Win or lose, she’ll be nominated for decades to come. She’s versatile and the real deal. She can do it all.

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This is Robert De Niro’s most legitimate role since Goodfellas. That’s 2.5 decades. His supporting role as Cooper’s father with OCD is great. He makes you laugh and makes you choke up. He’s still got it. Whew.

Jacki Weaver has an understated role. She doesn’t try to make it something it’s not. She’s the glue that holds the family, and the film, together.

Chris Tucker is back. I don’t know where he’s been. But he’s back and as funny as ever. His character is responsible for the straight-forward humor. He makes the movie work and keeps it from becoming too serious.

– The Lessons in the Story

Like life itself, Silver Linings Playbook isn’t tragedy or comedy. It’s both. There are tears and there are laughs and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. That’s life. And this movie gets it right.

But the most powerful messages in this movie should be featured in some sermons over the next year. At one point in the movie, I sighed and whispered, “I see you, Gospel.” It’s there.

Forgiveness, of both others and yourself. The realization of our shortcomings and obstacles, striking the balance between overcoming them and also humbly realizing our imperfections. At its heart, this film is about friendship, family, romance, and coming to terms with our own human frailty with the help of others. Silver Linings Playbook is all about grace, and its most potent lesson is that before we can accept grace from others or offer grace ourselves, we must realize our limited control and need for grace.

We’re all sinners. We’ve all made mistakes. We must learn from them and try to do better, but we can’t ignore them or let the shame overwhelm us.

Far too often, we either justify our shortcomings or let the guilt overwhelm us. Silver Linings Playbook masterfully shows the extent to which we have to take responsibility while also allowing ourselves grace.

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– A Raw & Real Feel-Good Movie

Ultimately, if you want a film with both the story and performances that portray the raw reality of life while also sending your heart jumping for joy at what can make life great, this movie is for you. It has something for everyone. And because of that, it’s one of the best of 2012.

Here’s the trailer:

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Posted on by Joseph Williams in Faith, Featured, Movie Reviews, Movies

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