MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on DVDs: Silver Linings Playbook



SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (Three and a Half Stars)

U.S.: David O. Russell, 2012 (Starz/Anchor Bay)


Silver Linings Playbook is a semi-Capraesque, semi-Paddy Chayefskyesque drama/comedy for the new millennium: a smart and amusing movie felicitously co-starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jackie Weaver, Julia Stiles, and Chris Tucker in roles meatier than we usually expect and played with great big dollops of joyous spontaneity, live-wire energy, bristling wit and just a touch of psychological darkness.  A multiple Oscar nominee, it was definitely one of 2012’s best romantic comedies and Cooper and Lawrence one of the year’s shining couples. It was a little overrated. But movie romantic comedies have been so bad recently, that it’s gratifying ing to find one worth overrating.

The movie was adapted by writer-director David O. Russell from a novel Matthew Quick, and it’s about Russell’s favorite subject: a dysfunctional family. Here the family, the Solitanos, live boisterously together with their dysfunctional friends and neighbors, in a sort of semi-functional Philadelphia suburb — a likable but nutty community whose ailments and oddments include bipolar disorder (Cooper), severe depression and seemingly  loose morals (both Lawrence), gambling addiction (De Niro), adultery (Brea Bee), a penchant for jogging while wearing a trash bag (Cooper), and — the most inexplicable and frightening of these various disorders — an obsession with the Philadelphia Eagles getting into the Super Bowl.

At the core of the comedy is the emotional condition of Cooper as Pat Solitano, Jr. — a performance that vaults him into a some kind of new serio-comedy stratosphere. Pat Jr. is an ex-teacher suffering from that bipolar issue, who has undergone months of mental institutionalization after beating the bejeezus out of a colleague who was sleeping (and showering) with Pat’s wife Nikki (Bee). Sprung from the hospital, along with his gabby pal Danny (Chris Tucker), Pat goes back to the house of his parents: his salty Eagle-loving bookie dad Pat, Sr. (De Niro) and his tolerant mom Dolores (Weaver, who was the terrifying mother of the Australian crime drama The Animal Kingdom). Also around: Pat Jr.s bro-pal Ronnie (John Ortiz), who has a bossy wife, Veronica (Julia Stiles), who in turn has a seemingly very available cop’s-widow-friend, Tiffany (Lawrence). A nice therapeutic romance is on everyone’s mind here, though Pat, Jr., unfortunately, is obsessed with engineering a marital reunion with Nikki.

With Cooper, who zoomed to stardom in the epic buddy-buddy comedy The Hangover, and Lawrence, who conquered the critics in Winter’s Bone and then zoomed herself in The Hunger Games, chemistry isn’t lacking here. Cooper plays Pat Jr. with a mix of obstinacy and nervous intensity, plus a phony bravado, and a disguised vulnerability that make a sharp contrast with the unshakably self-confident stud he played in The Hangover. As for Jennifer Lawrence, she adds naturalistic comedy to her resume to go along with the mastery of naturalistic drama she showed in Winter‘s Bone and the heroic young womanhood of The Hunger Game.

Then there’s the acting titan turned post-Focker sitcom papa Robert De Niro, playing the meatiest and juiciest of all his recent papa roles. De Niro‘s Pat Sr., like his son, is a hothead, and he’s been banned from the Philadelphia Eagles stadium for fighting. But he still makes his living off pro sports betting, and as the plot thickens,  Pat Sr. enginers a complex betting parley that involves the Eagles winning and Pat. Jr. and Tiffany placing high as a couple in a dance contest — something she’s asked him to do as payment for her help in getting an illegal letter to Nikki.

This is all corny as hell of course — Strictly Ballroom crossed with Big Fan — but corny is okay sometimes as long as it keeps us laughing. De Niro, a master of dramatic improvisation, here shows (again) he’s also a master of comedy disguised as dramatic improvisation. He knows how to make us laugh (and to get us scared and make us cry as well). And so do do Cooper and  Lawrence.

David O. Russell doesn’t work often enough, maybe because he makes the kind of hybrid offbeat movies — these mostly dysfunctional family rom-coms, with hooks ranging from incest (Spanking the Monkey) to adoption problems (Flirting with Disaster) — that are harder  to get financed. But Russell can do something that often seems a nearly lost art in movies these days. He writes smart, snappy, funny comic dialogue that we can buy psychologically, and that the actors usually do with infectious verve and spontaneity. Russell also assembles fine casts — probably because they want to say his lines. In general he can (and does here), turn out the kind of adult, unsentimentally appealing and sharply funny entertainment that weneed more of in the movies. That’s what makes him a critics’ pet. He deserves it.

As for DeNiro, I’d like to see him in a few less sitcom papa roles, and a few more Scorsese-style parts. Then again, making people laugh — even at dysfunctional families — isn’t an unworthy occupation, as we learned in Sullivan‘s Travels. Neither is running book on the Philadelphia Eagles, though it might seem like grounds for institutionalization.

Extras: Deleted Scenes; Featurettes; Dance Rehearsal; Q & A Highlights.

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.


awesome stuff. OK I would like to contribute as well by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some amazing and easy to modify. check it out at All custom premade files, many of them totally free to get. Also, check out Dow on: Wilmington on DVDs: How to Train Your Dragon, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Darjeeling Limited, The Films of Nikita Mikhalkov, The Hangover, The Human Centipede and more ...

cool post. OK I would like to contribute too by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some amazing and easy to customize. check it out at All custom templates, many of them dirt cheap or free to get. Also, check out Downlo on: Wilmington on Movies: I'm Still Here, Soul Kitchen and Bran Nue Dae

awesome post. Now I would like to contribute too by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some beautiful and easy to modify. take a look at All custom premade files, many of them free to get. Also, check out DownloadSoho.c on: MW on Movies: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Paranormal Activity 2, and CIFF Wrap-Up

Carrie Mulligan on: Wilmington on DVDs: The Great Gatsby

isa50 on: Wilmington on DVDs: Gladiator; Hell's Half Acre; The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Rory on: Wilmington on Movies: Snow White and the Huntsman

Andrew Coyle on: Wilmington On Movies: Paterson

tamzap on: Wilmington on DVDs: The Magnificent Seven, Date Night, Little Women, Chicago and more …

rdecker5 on: Wilmington on DVDs: Ivan's Childhood

Ray Pride on: Wilmington on Movies: The Purge: Election Year

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon