Unchained Review: The SIlver Linings Playbook

What is The Silver Linings Playbook? Is it great? Or just good?  Is it the film that proves Jennifer Lawrence is one of the best actresses of her generation? Reminds us Robert Deniro is possibly the best actor of any generation? Reveals Bradley Cooper is actually good (with a talented filmmaker I guess)?  Does it prove David O. Russell is one of the best filmmakers working today? That he’s gone soft? Or that he’s smooching with the Hollywood elite until we can make evocative, personal films again? Is it the feel good film of the year? A real crowd pleaser? Is it a cute romantic comedy? The 2012 version of Jerry Maguire? Is it a dark comedy? The funniest film of the year? Is it Oscar bait? Exploits mental illness for laughs and awards? 

The Silver Linings Playbook is a very good film, and Jennifer Lawrence deserves an immense amount of credit for that. If Winter’s Bone put her on the map and The Hunger Games made her a star, The Silver Linings Playbook cements her place as one of the best actresses of her generation. This is an entirely different role for her. It requires her to make you laugh while simultaneously breaking your heart and she completely nails it. I’m emphasized with her character so much, and the film would potentially apart without her.

It was great to see an engaged Robert Deniro again. Taxi Driver is long gone, but it’s been depressing to see him coast the last decade or so. There’s nothing really special about his performance here, but it was definitely solid. I really hope he does something that really pushes him in the near future. I know PTA wants to work with him. I think The Silver Linings Playbook hints Deniro has a transcendant performance or two just waiting to be unleashed.

After The Silver Linings Playbook I decided I kind of like Bradley Cooper. Honestly, I really wasn’t a fan after The Hangover. Maybe this was just the perfect material for him but I thought he was very good. His comedic timing was perfect, and I felt his portrayal of rage was mas more nuanced than your typical manchild character. It doesn’t compare to Sandler in Punch-Drunk Love, but it’s very good. I can’t help but question how much of that is because of David O. Russel.

David O. Russell used to be an evocative filmmaker. He really used make statements. The Silver Linings Playbook doesn’t do anything to prove that guy is still interested in making the art he used to. BUT. He was in director’s jail. No one knew if he’d ever make films again, and now he’s made two very well made, easily digestible films. Maybe someone will let him make something personal and meaningful again. It was probably the best way to get back to where he wanted to be. He’s definitely very talented. This film would have been a disaster in most hands, but some how he’s made a dark, feel good, hilarious, serious, sad, and romantic film that’s “Oscar bait?”

Some have accused the film of making mental illness cute, and exploiting it to win some gold statues. Honestly, I think this is totally off base. There are definitely awkward moments created because of the characters social disorders that are funny, but as someone who’s dealt with minor social anxiety disorder I really related to these people. I never felt like the film was making fun of them. I thought it put us in their shoes, and I also think laughter is healthy and it helps people rise out of the doom and gloom they can bury themselves in. I really liked The Silver Linings Playbook. It’s very very well made. It’s the funniest film of the year, and the emotional beats aren’t overly sentimental. It’s not special or transcendent, but I highly recommend it. I’d be so happy if there were more films like this.

Final grade: B+

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