Project 52: 'Silver Linings Playbook'
Posted Monday, February 18, 2013 at 12:19 AM Central
by John Couture
This week's Project 52 was delayed for a myriad of reasons, but mainly I knew that I would be seeing Silver Linings Playbook today and I was pretty sure that I would want to get my thoughts out as soon as possible.
While this film technically was released in 2012, mainly for awards considerations, I'm glad that I waited until this year to see it. Mainly because if I had to choose between Silver Linings Playbook and Safety Not Guaranteed as the best film I saw in 2012, I'm not sure yet which one I would select.
I suppose that takes some of the drama out of this review, but let's face it, you don't get an Academy Award nod for Best Picture and score a nomination in each of the four acting categories and expect to see a bad film. In fact, Silver Linings Playbook has an opportunity to make history at the Oscars by becoming just the fourth film ever to sweep the so-called top five Oscars (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress & Screenplay).
If they win all four of the acting categories, they will be the first film to do so. Silver Linings Playbook is the 14th film to be honored with nominations in each acting category and only two films (A Streetcar Named Desire & Network) have won three of four.
I wouldn't bet on history being made, but if you're looking for a good parlay for the evening, I'd wager on Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro each taking home a little statue. Of course, this is the Oscars and you never want to bet against the Weinsteins when it comes to the Oscars.
I think the biggest difference between these three films is all about accessibility. I never served in the Civil War nor was I hostage in Iran, but I can relate to having moments of human weakness and questioning my own sanity.
The fact is that every one of us can relate to Bradley Cooper's Pat in one way or another. In H.G. Wells' "The Country of the Blind," the protagonist Nuñez recites the refrain, "In the Country of the Blind the One-Eyed Man is King" and the same can be said about the sanity and the land of the insane.
Everyone is flawed in Silver Linings Playbook and the one least flawed will rule the kingdom as it were. While the film centers on Pat and Tiffany, the two who have been medicated for their insanity, it's clear that no one is quite as sane or happy as they seem.
Pat's friend Ronnie is under great stress and pressure and questions his own marriage to Tiffany's sister. Pat's father is dealing with his own shortcomings in life and sees himself in Pat's spiral into despair. More tangentially, Pat Sr. has a gambling addiction that threatens to ruin his life.
Danny has a penchant for leaving the hospital without approval and Pat's mother realizes that she's only an observer in her own life which is shaped by the men around her. So, in the world of the insane, he who has a strategy (in the words of Dr. Patel) will put their life back together and rule the roost as it were.
In the midst of all this craziness, Pat and Tiffany, two of the most flawed people in the film, find each other and see in each other a way out of their individual insanities. Tiffany sees Pat as a dance partner that will allow her to compete in a big dance competition.
Pat sees Tiffany as a conduit to his estranged wife Nikki, but little does he know that she's more manipulative than she appears at first blush. In the end, the big twist is that throughout the film it seems as though Tiffany is further on her way to normalcy, but Pat is the one who gets there first.
Tiffany uses lies and deceit to manipulate Pat into getting what she wants, but when confronted with reality when Nikki shows up for the dance competition, she turns to drink and her old ways. While it was assumed that Tiffany would lead Pat out of his despair and on to a better life with her, it was, in fact, Pat who finally steps up and saves Tiffany from herself.
Ultimately, they help each other to reach a better place and that's really what life is about, isn't it? While we enter life and exit it on our own, we are never alone between these two events. Pat and Tiffany find that they are indeed dysfunctional, but that their levels of dysfunction are slightly less than those around them.
But the real joy of this film is the individual performances. At times, the film felt like the older, wiser brother to Kevin Smith's Chasing Amy. Pat and Tiffany reflect Holden and Alyssa and they even deal with some of the same issues, including the sexual experience levels of the female leads.
This performance is one that puts Bradley Cooper on the map as a serious actor. I never in a million years would have thought him capable of carrying this role (and film), but he seemingly does so with great ease. He is literally sharing the screen with icons and more than holding his own.
JLaw is JLaw, but she's able to combine humor and dramatic overtones to create a character in Tiffany that will go down as one of the most beloved, flawed romantic. She is both confident and vulnerable and displays such control over her craft that she should be a lock for an Oscar win.
Robert De Niro is a class act. He commands the screen whenever he's on it, but in Silver Linings Playbook, he is more vulnerable than he's ever been. He doesn't have the usual net under him and he really has to carry the film at times. He is the rock of the father-son relationship that shapes the film.
The real jewel of the film though is the performance that has flown under the radar. No, I'm not talking about Jacki Weaver, but the re-emergence of Chris Tucker. He plays Pat's hospital buddy Danny and he nails it out of the park. He is restrained and truly steals every scene that he's in. His performance really makes you wonder where he's been these last 10 years or so.
Overall, Silver Linings Playbook easily stands as the best film I've seen in 2013 and it will take an amazing film to knock it off the top spot. It's almost perfect. But there is slight room for improvement so, it scores a Straight Flush.