VOD film review: Silver Linings Playbook
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Ivan Radford | On 14, Oct 2013
Director: David O’Russell
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert de Niro, Jacki Weaver
Watch Silver Linings Playbook online in the UK: iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play
On the surface, Silver Linings Playbook is as cliched as they come. The story of a man trying to get back with his wife after a stint in a psychiatric hospital, David O’Russell’s film follows all the usual stereotypes. The surprise? It’s very good.
The film starts with Pat (Cooper) standing with his back to the camera. Inevitably, he’s doing a voiceover. Then he turns around – and from that moment on, it’s impossible to take your eyes off him.
Diagnosed with bipolar depression, Bradley Cooper switches Pat’s behaviour and mood with an understated realism. It’s that delicate performance that makes Silver Linings Playbook so engaging; the story may be trite, but Cooper is never anything less than believable. It’s easily his best performance to date.
But why leave it there? Silver Linings adds in more drama with Tiffany (Lawrence), a widow struggling to move on with her life. There’s also Pat’s friend Danny (a brilliantly restrained Chris Tucker), who repeatedly finds ways to escape his psychiatric hospital. And then there’s Pat’s dad (de Niro), a guy with a gambling habit and a tendency to erupt into violence.
It’s to O’Russell’s credit that he lets his cast flex their muscles without overshadowing each other. De Niro could steal every scene he’s in, but he blends into the background with his worried wife (Jacki Weaver). Lawrence, meanwhile, is as breathlessly real as Cooper, feeling 16 and 40 at the same time, despite only being 21 years old; together, they manage to sell everything that happens, even a dancing sub-plot that builds up to an unexpectedly tense finale.
And that really is the surprise of Silver Linings Playbook. It’s a blindingly obvious Hollywood script given unexpected life by a director on top form. O’Russell’s camera rushes around constantly, cutting into first-person for intimate moments and forever circling his leads. It should be annoying. The story should be predictable. And a dance competition should not leave you on the edge of your seat. But somehow, it does.
Maybe it’s the gentle music, which matches its characters’ moods. Maybe it’s the performances, which earned Oscar nods – and one win – for its leads. Whatever it is, it works.