By Mark Saldana

Rating: 4 (Out of 4 Stars)

Upon viewing the trailer for this movie, one gets the impression that this is another typical romantic comedy.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  I never ever look forward to romantic comedies, but I would not pass up the chance to see this latest entry from acclaimed director David O Russell (The Fighter, I Heart Huckabees).  Leave it to this talented director and writer to make an excellent film with a superb cast in an otherwise stale genre.

Based on the novel by Matthew Quick, Silver Linings Playbook tells the story of Pat Solitano, Jr. (Bradley Cooper), a troubled man attempting to rebuild his life after an explosive meltdown lands him in an institution.  Pat suffers from bipolar disorder and must learn to deal with this problem in the real world. When released, Pat moves in with his parents Pat, Sr. (Robert DeNiro) and mother Dolores (Jacki Weaver).  Pat, Sr., an obsessive-compulsive whose life revolves around his love for the Philadelphia Eagles and gambling, doesn’t exactly make his life easier and offers little support in his quest to win back his wife Nikki (Brea Bree).  In an attempt to socialize more, Pat has dinner with his friends Ronnie (John Ortiz) and Veronica (Julia Stiles) where he meets Veronica’s sister Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence).  Tiffany, who has some issues of her own, starts a strangely awkward friendship with Pat and eventually agrees to help him win back his wife.

I had the pleasure of viewing this film at the 2012 Austin Film Festival and it truly won my heart.  My favorite film of AFF this year, Silver Linings Playbook also won the Audience Award for Best Marquee Feature at the festival.  David O. Russell delivers a superbly written script that hits all the perfect notes in all the right moments.  The film makes for a hilarious, sometimes sad, poignant and overall heartwarming experience at the movies and never once does it all feel contrived or artificial.  The characters feel like real and genuine people with all their endearing qualities and the flaws which make them unlikable.  The cast does not contain one single weak link at all.

Bradley Cooper delivers his best performance ever in what is probably the most challenging role in his career.  I’d like to see him receive Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for his performance here.  Jennifer Lawrence also shines and shares a lovely chemistry with Cooper. Their relationship starts off painfully awkward, and these two talented actors perfectly portray this.  Watching this friendship/romance develop on the screen, feels like glimpsing into the evolution of a real relationship between two people. It also gave me great pleasure to see Robert DeNiro in a role that didn’t feel like he coasted through.  His recent roles in movies feel like “phoned-in” easy walk-ons.  It is great to see him exercise his acting chops in a more dimensional character. I also enjoyed seeing Chris Tucker in a delightful role as Pat’s friend Danny.

So at this point it should go without saying that I strongly recommend this movie for a full-priced ticket.  For the men who dread going to rom-com date movies, there is plenty to love in Silver Linings Playbook.  The wonderfully written humor will deliver the entertainment goods.  It really pleases me that David O. Russell pulls off this type of movie with his typical off-beat style and reinvigorates a genre I normally dismiss.

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