“After a six-year gap between releases, David O. Russell returned to form in 2010 with The Fighter, a boxing-cum-addiction dramedy that became a commercial and awards force that season,” begins Stephen Zeitchik in the Los Angeles Times. Now, two years on, Russell is back with Silver Linings Playbook, a project that actually “originated years before The Fighter when the late Sydney Pollack gave the director the eponymous novel.”
“Bradley Cooper plays a bipolar ward of the state released from an institution eight months after landing there on assault charges,” writes the AV Club‘s Scott Tobias. “Once home with his parents, his commitment to positivity—hence the ‘silver linings’ of the title—frequently gives way to tantrums (he chucks A Farewell to Arms out the window for its downer ending) and violent outbursts. Jennifer Lawrence co-stars as his partner in anti-psychotics, a dark young widow who tries to help him set his life back in order. This all sounds terribly unpromising by description, but Russell, working from Matthew Quick’s novel, harnesses Cooper and Lawrence’s mutual quirks into a screwball delirium that plays like a more mainstream Flirting with Disaster or I [Heart] Huckabees. As someone pointed out to be today, Russell has yet to make a bad movie—Flirting, Huckabees, Spanking the Monkey, Three Kings, and The Fighter are all winners—and he has talent for writing generously across a large ensemble.”
“Silver Linings Playbook opens smart and quick,” writes Henry Barnes for the Guardian. “Russell directs with a mania reflective of Pat’s condition—all zooms and fast cuts, nervous tweaks and wobbles, while Cooper plays Pat spaced out on meds or up-and-at-em breezy, seemingly at random. It’s a clever performance that makes us root for Pat and worry for him too.”
“As confident and empathetic as Cooper is, though, Silver Linings Playbook’s real revelation is Lawrence, who conveys a dangerous seductiveness as the thorny, vulnerable Tiffany.” Tim Grierson for Screen: “Though Tiffany’s problems may not be as extreme as Pat’s, she is equally wounded, and for the first time in her brief career Lawrence plays a grownup—as opposed to a self-possessed young person—with incredible flair and steeliness.”
“One of the chief pleasures here is the incisive work of actors in even the smallest roles,” writes David Rooney in the Hollywood Reporter. “As Pat’s best friend Ronnie, John Ortiz bristles with the stress of home, job, baby and controlling wife in Tiffany’s sister, played with cool command by Julia Stiles. Indian veteran Anupam Kher brings a nice needling manner to Pat’s therapist.”
“Chris Tucker makes a rare and effective appearance as Pat’s best mental-ward buddy,” adds Justin Chang in Variety, “[Jackie] Weaver is a warm delight as his pacifist mother, and it’s hard to remember the last time [Robert] De Niro [as Pat’s father] was this effortlessly endearing and relaxed onscreen.”
A “dynamic scene in which Tiffany and Pat’s family simultaneously confront him about his shortcomings finds nearly the entire ensemble yelling at each other,” notes indieWIRE‘s Eric Kohn. “American comedy is rarely so intense without turning dark.” For the Playlist‘s Kevin Jagernauth, Silver Linings is “a true joy to watch.”
And it premiered this weekend in Toronto as a Gala Presentation.
Updates, 9/16: Silver Linings Playbook has won the People’s Choice Award in Toronto. IndieWIRE‘s Peter Knegt and Nigel M. Smith have the full list of award-winners.
“If Frances Ha is Girls as Greta Gerwig vehicle, David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook is Mike White and Laura Dern’s Enlightened repackaged as prestige romantic comedy,” proposes Sky Hirschkron in MUBI’s Notebook. “Unlike the TV show’s new-agey corporate underling, however, former mental patient Pat is not merely well-intentioned and fatally patronizing; his positivity prevents the slightest identification with his (or anyone else’s) sadness or capacity for violence. Or maybe he’s tactful, gentle and understanding—the movie doesn’t seem to know. And the trade-off of character integrity for audience identification extends to the fabric of Russell’s latest movie, and in retrospect, the arc of his career.”
“Silver Linings Playbook is his most timid and conventional feature,” argues Time‘s Richard Corliss. “It’s the kind of movie where a character does something obvious for the first hour (like Pat Sr.’s attempts to get close to his son by begging him to watch Eagles games with him) and then, in the second hour, explains the obvious (to quote loosely: ‘I begged you to watch the games with me so I could get close to you’). It’s also another movie set in Philadelphia—actually, Ridley Park, just across the city line—where nobody even tries to speak in the area’s distinct nasal twang. Finally, this is a story so deeply comfortable with narrative clichés that it climaxes with… a dance contest. Will Pat and Tiffany bond as they practice for their big night? Will they earn a high enough score to keep Pat Sr., who has bet his savings on the outcome, from going broke? Will the sun rise tomorrow over Ben Franklin’s statue at the top of City Hall?”
“Despite a few fussy melodramatic touches, Russell sells his low-key redemption story,” argues John Semley in Cinema Scope, “and he also nails the manic pace and rat-a-tat rhythm of his overlapping dialogue without making it feel like Mametian mimicry. More than just another beautiful-loser love story, Silver Linings functions as a fleet analysis of magical thinking in Middle America, from cockamamie self-help programs to the finely tuned details of game-day superstition.”
“The more mature he gets as filmmaker (he’s 54) the less afraid he is of straightforward human connection,” notes the Boston Globe‘s Wesley Morris. “I might prefer his screwballs a little screwier. But it felt good watching this movie with a crowded house that was as eager as ever to connect to him.”
For Nicolas Rapold, dispatching to Film Comment, the film’s an “unalloyed pleasure.” It’s “easy to hug, easy to know,” adds Time Out New York‘s Joshua Rothkopf. More from Monika Bartyzel (Movies.com) and David Rooney (Hollywood Reporter).
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