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Silver Linings Playbook…

15A, general release, 122 minutes.

Director: David O’Russell

Stars: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver.

Director of 2010s Oscar winning The Fighter which told the story of “Irish” boxer Mickey Ward and the brother who helped train him before going pro in the in the mid 1980s David O Russell is back only this time he has something a little different to offer. Having always been what one would refer to as an eclectic filmmaker this hardly comes as a surprise after all he is the same man who gave us Three Kings and I Heart Huckabees. This time around instead of focusing on the gritty true story of a working class hero he has something altogether more cerebral, uplifting and witty to offer eager audiences in the form of Silver Linings Playbook which is based on acclaimed novelist Matthew Quick’s book of the same name.

Despite being a much easier watch than The Fighter it is important to note that Silver Linings Playbook does in fact have its darker moments. When we first meet Pat Solitano (Cooper) he is dodging his medication in a Philadelphia mental institution. Naturally, it’s not long before we find out how he got there. Turns out Pat has quite the temper. Not only that but the doctors treating Pat have decided he is suffering from bi-polar disorder. All of this was originally discovered when Pat, a former high school teacher, returned home from work one day to find his beloved wife Nikki indulging in a shower with another man. As you can imagine Pat was not best pleased and proceeded to beat the guy half to death, and has been locked up ever since.

Refusing to give up on her troubled son is Pats saint-like mother Dolores (Weaver) who fights relentlessly (as only a mammy can) to persuade doctors to let him come home after eight months of incarceration. Eventually she manages to do so and Pat who is still avoiding his medication, is still dangerously unstable, and still cannot manage to get along with his equally obsessive and gambling addicted father Pat Senior (De Niro) returns to his family home. It is here that Pat becomes manically optimistic and convinces himself that his estranged wife Nikki will have no problem taking him back if he only works hard enough.

Pat as he himself puts it does not “have a filter.” So when he talks he does so with purpose and just what is his purpose? Why to tell it as it is of course. While this is a joy to watch and I often find myself envying his rather um refreshing honesty others who have to deal with Pat clearly do not feel the same way. However, when he is introduced to Tiffany (Lawrence) the younger sister of his best friend Ronnie’s wife it’s clear from the very start that he has finally met his match. Tiffany, you see has problems of her own: her husband has recently been killed in a horrific car crash a tragedy which has left her fragile and ever so slightly erratic. She also has as Pat so kindly informs her “poor social skills” which is true in fact they are just about as poor as his own.

It’s not long before Pat finds out that Ronnie and his wife Victoria (Julia Stiles – nice to see her back) still see Nikki on a regular basis. Knowing that he has very few people he can ask this favour of Pat soon asks Tiffany if she will deliver a love letter to Nikki on his behalf. She agrees but under one condition, Pat must train with her to enter a ballroom dancing competition and the rest as they say is history folks, well… sort of!

As you would expect it all becomes a little soppy in the last half hour but do not write this one off as a romantic comedy, it is way too good for that. This is a beautiful, smart, grounded and well put together film. Perhaps most impressive is the way Russell manages to mix so well the light with the dark. He does not, like so many others, shy away from the issue that is mental health. Instead he portrays characters who are complex and at times scarily relatable. Cooper, who I was worried for after his part in The Hangover 2 and Limitless is absolutely brilliant in this and it’s just great to finally see Robert De Niro taking on a role that is worthy of his talents – I cannot tell you how sick I was getting of Jack Byrne’s, honestly they should stopped after the first Meet The Parents. When it comes to Lawrence I’m sure you already know what I’m going to say in fact to sum up her performance all you need is one word and that is, sublime. In years to come I think we’ll look at Lawrence’s career and compare her to Hollywood’s finest leading lady; Meryl Streep.

After winning The Audience Award at this years Toronto Film Festival critics everywhere are saying Silver Linings Playbook will surely be in line for an Oscar with certain Oscar “locks” predicted including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor and Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay so why not go take in a must see tonight?

Kerrie Mitchell.

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