“Silver Linings Playbook” Movie Review

     There’s always at least one quality feel good movie of the holiday season and this year that film is writer/director David O’Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook”.  These are the kinds of films which though they cover serious subject matter, they have a distinctive comic tone that not only lightens up the proceedings, but also gives the story a more powerful appeal.  It doesn’t hurt when your cast includes quite possibly the greatest actor of all time in Robert De Niro, along side two young leads, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, who shine together as well as any two actors have in a film all year.  As he did with 2010’s “The Fighter”, O”Russell uses his artful skills from years of independent filmmaking and creates several characters you just have to root for, if for no other reason than you’ll likely relate to least one of them.

     Pat (Cooper) is a Philadelphia high school teacher who comes home from work one day and discovers his wife in the shower with another man.  To hear him describe it and then to see it in flashback makes for an obviously traumatic experience for Pat.  He arrives home and notices clothing on the floor of the living room, leading directly to he and his wife’s bedroom on into the bathroom.  At one moment he thinks she might have wanted to lead him there, but then he sees she is not alone.  As he describes to his therapist, he then proceeds to beat the man his wife is with nearly to death.  Rather than jail time, it is presumed Pat ends up in the mental institution we see him in at the beginning of the film as a result of some kind of insanity plea.

     After serving 8 months, Pat’s mother (Jacki Weaver) arranges to have him placed into her and his father’s custody, while he continues to attend regular treatment.  This is when we meet Pat Sr. (De Niro), an avid Philadelphia Eagles fan, who is thrilled his son is back since he views his presence, along with several other superstitions, as the reason why the Eagles win or lose games.  It is revealed early that Pat Sr. is banned from the Eagles’ stadium for fighting with other fans, and his passion for his team may seem fanatical to some, but lets just say I can relate to his passion for his team. Pat doesn’t really seem interested in the Eagles at this point, he remains delusional and is intent on reconnecting with his estranged wife, Nikki.

     Pat is relentless in his pursuit and blames her cheating on the fact he used to be “chubby”, so he runs miles a day with a garbage bag fashioned over his sweat shirt in an effort to lose extra pounds before he sees Nikki.  Along the way, he runs into Tiffany (Lawrence), a young twenty something who has had a issues as well after losing her husband in an unfortunate accident.  Her loss caused her to also move in with her parents and she appears to be searching for something to fill the tremendous void left by her late husband.  Pat and Tiffany first meet at a small dinner party with Pat’s best friend who is married to Tiffany’s sister.  After Tiffany has a squabble with her sister, Pat is asked to walk her home and though the two don’t immediately hit it off (they are both suffering from severe mental illness), you can see a genuine bond begin to form.

     Pat finds out Tiffany has the ability to get Nikki a letter via her sister who she is also friends with, and pleads for her to deliver it for him.  Tiffany agrees but wants Pat to participate in a dance contest with her.  Though Pat doesn’t dance, he’s desperate and decides to participate.  Tiffany used money from her husband’s death to convert her parents garage into a dance studio and they immediately begin training.  In a nice supporting role, Chris Tucker returns to movies as one of Pat’s buddies from the mental hospital.  In one sequence he helps add some very spirited dance moves to Pat and Tiffany’s routine to hilarious effect.  It’s nice to see Tucker back after such a long absence and his presence throughout is notable.  The final dance sequence which is quite lavish given the fact these two could enter, pleases the crowd in a very unlikely way and is nevertheless satisfying.  Pat’s decision making between his commitment to Tiffany and the fact the Eagles are playing a huge game at the same time makes for quite a suspenseful situation.

     I think it’s safe to pencil in Jennifer Lawrence for her second Oscar nomination and Bradley Cooper for his first.  It’s nice to see both of them taking time away from the blockbusters to return where they both started and help make a film that will have a lasting meaning.  David O’Russell has again written and directed a masterful piece of work which will not only make noise during awards season, but is sure to stand the test of time and become something more.  GRADE: A