At the Movies: Silver Linings Playbook

Nothing of interest (to me) is opening this weekend so I figured I’d continue to play catchup. “Silver Linings Playbook” is one of those movies that critics go ga-ga over but audiences don’t seem too interested.

Which is interesting because in many respects the movie plays out like a standard romantic comedy — it’s just that the characters are so unconventional, and loud, that it may be off-putting to people who like this kind of thing.

220px-Silver_Linings_Playbook_PosterBradley Cooper stars as Pat Solitano, a teacher who loses it one day when he finds his wife Nikki in the shower with another man. Pat spends the next eight months in a mental institution. As the film opens he has been released to the custody of his parents, Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro) and Dolores (Jacki Weaver).

Pat refuses to take his meds and is determined to get his life back on track and be reunited with Nikki — despite the fact that she has a restraining order against him. He still struggles with his anger and can explode over hearing a certain song or the ending of a Hemingway novel.

One day Pat’s friend Ronnie (John Ortiz) and his wife Veronica (Julia Stiles) invite him over for dinner. Unknown to Pat, they have also invited Veronica’s sister Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence). Tiffany’s husband recently died and she’s as much of a mess as Pat is. Their first encounter does not go well.

But they still become drawn to each other. Tiffany knows Nikki and agrees to give her a letter from Pat provided Pat becomes her partner in a dance contest.

I already mentioned this is a pretty standard romantic comedy plot so you can probably guess where it goes from here. What makes “Silver Linings Playbook” stand out is an entertainingly eccentric cast of characters and some sharp dialogue.

Based on the novel by Matthew Quick, “Playbook” is directed by David O. Russell, who gave us 2010’s “The Fighter.” The films have a similar feel and tone — the scene where Tiffany confronts Pat’s family is hilarious and reminiscent of a moment in “The Fighter.”

Bradley Cooper gives a strong performance but I wasn’t really sold on the film until Jennifer Lawrence showed up. Pat starts out so harsh and abrasive that he was hard to like but once Tiffany shows up the sparks between them make the movie fun and far more compelling.

Smart, funny and sweet, “Silver Linings Playbook” is a holiday treat even if I’m still not sure what the title means.


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