REVIEW: The Silver Linings Playbook

I haven’t had any idea what to write for a while. Yes, there are always the workouts, but it felt boring to write about the same ones over and over. Then again, I recently started switching things up: for example, instead of doing Upper Body from the Deluxe 10 Minute Trainer DVDs, I did the routine that was on the 10 Minute Trainer One on Oneset. This offers me some variety, and yet I still wrote nothing new here.

Then Christmas came, and I gave my wife her present: the movie THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK. We watched it that night, and I fell in love with it all over again. It has inspired me to write a review here. It has been out a while, but for those of you who don’t know it, here is a plot summary:

When the movie starts, Pat Solitano Jr. (played by Brad Cooper) is checked out of a psychiatric hospital. He was in there as part of a plea agreement when he was taken to court for nearly beating his wife Nikki’s lover to death. (Pat came home and found them in the shower together. And you know what the bastard has the nerve to say? “You better leave.” Needless to say, I can identify with Pat’s rage.) When he gets out, Pat goes to live with his parents (played by a wonderfully restrained, down to earth Robert De Niro and the loving, very motherly Jacki Weaver).

Pat is determined to win Nikki back. She is a high school English teacher, and he decides to read all the books on her syllabus. He also goes jogging on a regular basis because one of his wife’s criticisms of him was that he should lose weight. Shortly after his release, he gets invited over to his friend Ronnie’s house for dinner. Ronnie is married to a woman named Veronica (played by Julia Stiles), who isn’t a big fan of Pat’s but is actually the one who told Ronnie to ask him over for dinner. After arriving, Pat learns there will be another dinner guest: Veronica’s little sister Tiffany, played by Jennifer Lawrence.

And when she enters, that is when the movie begins.

Pat’s neuroses and bi-polar behavior has its entertaining, humorous moments up until this point…but when Tiffany comes on the screen, everything changes. The way they play off each other (each character lacks any kind of filter and says whatever they want) creates a chemistry unlike anything I’ve seen in recent memory. For example, check out the dinner scene when they compare what different medications they have been on.

As it turns out, Veronica Maxwell is still friends with Nikki, and they hang out every now and then. Pat learns that Tiffany tags along sometimes. Tiffany offers to help get a letter from Pat to his wife if he agrees to help her out in a dance contest. Reluctantly, he agrees.

That’s really all I want or need to summarize for you, so at this point I should start talking about the cast.

Brad Cooper is completely believable as the off-kilter Pat. With his short hair, scruffy beard, and wild blue eyes, he looks like the kind of guy who could explode at any moment…yet at the center of him is a very caring, sincere human being.

Robert De Niro is very restrained here. Usually he dominates any movie he is in, even when he is a supporting character, simply because of his acting prowess. In this situation, he sits comfortably in the background. That’s not to say he doesn’t have his moments. One of the best scenes in the film is when Pat Sr. opens up to his son about how he regrets spending more time with his older son instead of Pat Jr.

Jacki Weaver is incredibly warm and wonderful as Pat’s mom. She reminded me of all the TV moms of the 1950s…if they’d had a bipolar son on those sitcoms.

Playing another bit part as Pat’s fellow patient Danny is an unusually calm Chris Tucker. His over-the-top motormouth persona is nowhere to be found here, and he gives the performance of a REAL human instead of just a caricature. That’s good because, while his usual form of acting might have made him convincing as Smokey in FRIDAY, such overacting would have been a mistake here. Honestly, I found myself wishing he was in the movie more (which wasn’t the case when I saw FIFTH ELEMENT).

Now you may have noticed I didn’t mention Jennifer Lawrence’s performance yet. Well, that’s because I believe in saving the best for last.

The second she walks on the screen, you know you are in for a treat. The only thing I’d seen her in before this was HUNGER GAMES, which I thought was your typical Hollywood summer action blockbuster, which usually means you will sit through an hour or two of a lot of special effects, big action, and NO acting. Surprisingly she was pretty good in that, but whatever she accomplished in HUNGER GAMES is dwarfed by her work in this movie.

She doesn’t just PLAY Tiffany Maxwell; she IS Tiffany Maxwell…a living, breathing, fully realized human being. She doesn’t fall into either category that is usually reserved for women in movies: most females are categorized as angels or sluts. Tiffany sees herself as both…in fact, she embraces all parts of herself, even the flaws.

The work Jennifer Lawrence does as Tiffany is magical. As I said, she becomes Tiffany. This is a trick few actors have ever achieved, and when they do, most of them are MUCH older than her. This is a performance on par with:

*Jack Nicholson as McMurphy in CUCKOO’S NEST
*Gary Oldman as Sid Vicious in SID AND NANCY
*Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in THE GODFATHER PART 2
*Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. The fact that she achieved this at 21 speaks volumes of her talent. I could watch this movie again and again, studying every scene…every line of dialogue…every facial expression…to try and pin down what she does that makes it work so well.

And you know what the best part is? I’d never be able to figure it out.

And that’s what makes it so special: the mystery of how she pulled this performance off.


About Steve Grogan

I am 40 years old, divorced, and a father of four kids. I am a practitioner of a self-defense system called wing chun kung fu. My other hobbies include writing, playing guitar, reading, watching movies, and listening to music. Recently I have gotten back into fitness, and this time I am DETERMINED to get the washboard abs...whether my metabolism will cooperate with me or not! The purpose of this blog is to write not only about my hobbies, but also about whatever crosses my mind, whether it is something I don't understand or something that aggravates me. So join me as I indulge my tendency to think too much about topics that don't usually cross anyone else's mind!
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5 Responses to REVIEW: The Silver Linings Playbook

  1. CMrok93 says:

    Good review. This movie really got the core of me because it featured people who you don’t usually see in rom-coms falling in love, doing just that. Therefore, we stand behind them and hope for the best, no matter what.

    • wcman1976 says:

      Thanks for the comment. I feel like Pat and Tiffany sometimes myself, not because I am bipolar or anything but because I’m a bit of an unusual personality, and your average cookie cutter person may mistake me as crazy.

  2. I haven’t seen this movie. I now want to find it and watch it. The list of actors alone gives me a good reason. Your review, however, is the main reason I would watch it. It sounds like a great movie. Thanks. 🙂

  3. Suzanne Fluhr (Boomeresque) says:

    I’m your opposite—not a big movie buff, but I was persuaded to see this film because it’s shot in and around my home city of Philadelphia. Your review really captures the essence of the movie and of the characters. Based on my appreciation of this film, I am going to see “American Hustle”, another Jennifer Lawrence film.

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