If there’s one thing that Silver Linings Playbook teaches us it’s that J. Law’s (Jennifer Lawrence)complete domination of Hollywood is inevitable. If you’ve paid any attention to the unpredictable, quirky delight that she is live interviews or the plethora of J. Law gifs that are spreading like herpes through the internet, then you know she’s just as entertaining off screen as she is on. But take away the bow and arrow, take away the derp, and you’re left with one hell of an actress. Did I mention she’s only 22? Talented bitch. Most recently she has scored her second Oscar nomination (the youngest actress ever to get a duo of noms) and a Golden Globe for her role in Silver Linings Playbook, the latest film from writer/director/producer David O. Russell. Bradley Cooper stars as Pat, a former teacher who has just been released from a mental institution after he was committed for half-beating a man to death when he found his wife cheating. Moving in with his loving mother Dolores (Jacki Weaver) and father Pat Snr. (Robert De Niro), he begins the arduous process of trying to put himself back together so he can prove his enduring love and sanity to his wife Nicole in the hopes that she’ll drop the restraining order and they’ll get back together.
Delusional, abrupt and emotionally unhinged, Pat makes a connection with young widow Tiffany (Jennifer ‘J.Law’ Lawrence). Beautiful and bat-shit crazy, she agrees to help his quest to win back Nicole on the condition that he will be her partner in a freestyle dance. As sparks begin to fly, Pat has to decide on whether to commit to a future reality or the delusion of past promises.
On paper the plot for Silver Linings Playbook could almost read as a rom-com. Swap Cooper for Gerard Butler and J. Law for Kate Hudson and you’re halfway there (Chris Tucker is already present as the token oddball friend). But thanks to the carefully adapted source material (based on Matthew Quick’s novel), some calculated casting and a clever filmmaker in O. Russell, the film is a romantic love story about trying to make the best of what life has dealt us.
The performances are the first thing that leaps out at you about Playbook (unsurprising given the four main cast members have all received Oscar nominations). For the first time since Alias, Cooper proves that he’s more than the Sexiest Man Alive – he’s a thespian gosh darn it! His unblinking, alert and raw portrayal is worthy of the acclaim it has received. Jacki Weaver, God bless her, is fine and chucks on a great Philadelphia accent but her screen time is so limited an Oscar nomination seems a tad OTT. De Niro delivers one of his best performances in years as a father who – in many ways – is just as mentally disturbed as his son with his paranoid, OCD and superstitious tendencies. Tucker and Julia Stiles also provide amusing side performances.
Yet the real star (if you haven’t guessed by now) is J. Law. Originally the part called for an older actress but Hollywood heavyweight Harvey Weinstein fought for her. It paid off. It’s as if she has taken her real life quirk to the power of ten as a wild but sweet young woman who is best described as a force of nature. J. Law switches up the character’s moods and motivations with a bipolar perfection. She transitions and evolves seamlessly, stealing every scene she’s in – yes, even including those alongside De Niro. If Winter’s Bone was her breakout role critically and The Hunger Games commercially, Silver Linings Playbook cements her status as the next Meryl Streep.
As J. Law said in her Golden Globes acceptance speech, there’s a reason so many actors from David O. Russell’s films have ended up on that stage. “That’s because of a good director.” She’s not wrong. The Fighter had him at his most inventive and some of those more unconventional camera shots are subtly splices into this story. From the cold and clinical therapy scenes to the romance and whimsy of the dance finale, O. Russell knows how to piece a movie together so that moments of humour are gorgeously contrasted with epic drama.
Silver Linings Playbook is a hilarious, dramatic and moving look at the fragile state of the human condition that succeeds thanks to the potent performances and decisive direction.
[rating=4] and a half
Maria Lewis - follow Maria on Twitter here: @moviemazz
Sydney, Australia. Getting her start as a police reporter, her writing on pop culture has appeared in publications such as the New York Post, Guardian, Penthouse, The Daily Mail, Empire Magazine, Gizmodo, Huffington Post, The Daily and Sunday Telegraph, i09, Junkee and many more. Previously seen as a presenter on SBS Viceland’s nightly news program The Feed and as the host of Cleverfan on ABC, she has been a journalist for over 15 years.
Her best-selling debut novel Who's Afraid? was published in 2016, followed by its sequel Who’s Afraid Too? in 2017, which was nominated for Best Horror Novel at the Aurealis Awards in 2018. Who’s Afraid? is being developed for television by the Emmy and BAFTA award-winning Hoodlum Entertainment. Her Young Adult debut, It Came From The Deep, was released globally on October 31, Halloween, 2017 and is a twist on The Little Mermaid meets Creature From The Black Lagoon.
Her fourth book, The Witch Who Courted Death, was released on Halloween, 2018 and nominated for Best Fantasy Novel at the Aurealis Awards in 2019. Her fifth novel set within the share supernatural universe is due for release in October, 2019.