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All the X's and O's line up in 'Silver Linings Playbook'

April 4, 2013

By Kristen Mott

Being cheated on is never a happy experience. Being cheated on and then developing a mental disorder is downright awful. But it's important to always look for the silver lining and that message is beautifully highlighted and cleverly relayed in the film "Silver Linings Playbook."

Silver LiningsPat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) has just been released from an eight-month stay at a mental hospital, after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and having a violent run-in with his wife’s lover. Pat moves back in with his parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver) and begins a desperate attempt to win back his wife. After attending a friend’s dinner party, Pat meets Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence), a recovering sex-addict and recent widow. Tiffany agrees to deliver letters to Pat’s wife if he helps her practice for an upcoming dance competition. Pat starts to re-examine his relationships as he struggles to come to terms with his new life.

Adapted from a novel of the same name by Matthew Quick, screenwriter David O. Russell crafted a beautiful script that is both moving and inspirational. The pace of the dialogue allows for a laugh – but only for a moment. As soon as one character makes a witty remark, it is merely seconds before he or she moves onto talking about something else.

Unlike typical comedies, the film’s script contains dark humor with sarcastic jokes and underplayed one-liners. The frantic nature of the dialogue complements the theme of dealing with disorienting mental disorders and feeds the humor.

Aside from being the screenwriter, Russell is also the director.  As such, he pushes the envelope and provides an unfiltered glimpse into the lives of these characters, but he never lets a scene go over the edge. He takes chances with dramatic lighting and camerawork, breaking the boundaries of typical comedy production techniques.

Russell’s casting choices are spot-on. Cooper gives an extraordinary performance as Pat. He delivers raw emotion and fully embodies the character’s broken heart and confusion, as life spirals out of control. Perhaps the best example of his emotional acting is during a scene when Pat is searching relentlessly for his wedding videotape. After tearing apart the attic and failing to locate the tape, Pat experiences a breakdown and panic attack, shouting wildly and getting into a physical fight with his father. The scene is riveting and gives insight into Pat’s illness.

Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence is a standout as Tiffany.  She cycles between portraying a widow who is trying to get her life back on track and a brash, indiscreet woman who isn’t afraid to speak her mind, regardless of who is listening. This is a role that Lawrence isn’t accustomed to playing (see “The Hunger Games”), but she does a fantastic job at embracing the character.

Even though these characters are hurting, they never let their suffering defeat them.  This gives the audience the uplifting message that life isn't all that bad even after a fall. This film is a must-see for anyone who has ever been hurt and is still looking for that elusive silver lining.