DVD Release Date: April 30, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: November 21, 2012
Rating: R (language and some sexual content/nudity)
Genre: Drama/Romantic comedy
Run Time: 122 min.
Director: David O. Russell
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Chris Tucker, Jacki Weaver, Julia Stiles, Dash Mihok, John Ortiz, Shea Whigham, Anapum Kher

In stark contrast to most romantic comedies with the requisite meet-cute, soft lighting and the epic finale usually involving someone chasing his/her soulmate through an airport, David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook is anything but typical. If anything, it’s the genre’s slightly unhinged cousin.

Given Russell’s body of work, which has always gravitated toward lovable misfits, complicated family dynamics and people who love screaming at each other (see: The Fighter, I Heart Huckabees and the criminally underrated Flirting With Disaster), it’s not surprising that he doesn't opt for the universal crowd-pleaser.

Still, as lovably offbeat as Silver Linings Playbook is, the story is still grounded in enough reality to resonate on a deep emotional level. With a role that demanded something more than swagger, a rarity in his career so far, Bradley Cooper (The Words) turns in what's easily his best performance yet. Showcasing a surprising vulnerability as Pat, a bipolar teacher who just wrapped up an eight-month stint in a mental hospital, his new lease on life is what inspired the movie’s title.

As grim as Pat’s existence has been since he caught his wife cheating on him, snapped and lost his teaching job in the process, he’s now determined to see the silver lining in every situation. Unfortunately, that isn’t quite as easy as he hoped.

In the midst of making great strides, he’s derailed by reading Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. He falls apart whenever he hears Stevie Wonder’s "My Cherie Amour," the song played at his wedding. And if moving forward in a healthy way wasn’t already challenging enough, his football-loving father (Robert De Niro, Being Flynn) certainly isn’t helping matters.

Apparently, crazy runs in the family, and Pat’s dad is practically OCD when it comes to his beloved Philadelphia Eagles. Believing the team's string of bad luck directly correlates with Pat's failure to watch the games with him on Sunday afternoons, their father/son dynamic ebbs and flows like quarterback Michael Vick's productivity in the red zone.

Adding another layer of drama to the proceedings is when Pat and Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence, X-Men: First Class) eventually meet not-so-cute at a family function. As they compare the anti-depressants they’ve taken the way soldiers trade war stories, Pat is both startled and dazzled by Tiffany's lack of social skills. Clearly he’s found a kindred spirit, even if he makes it known from the get-go that he’s determined to win his ex-wife back.

This disastrous family dinner is when Silver Linings really finds its footing. With a tart sense of humor that leads to plenty of full-on belly laughs, one can’t help rooting for these people who are clearly damaged goods. Proving to be one of the most versatile young actresses out there after stellar work in Winter’s Bone and as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, Lawrence sparkles in every scene she's in. She’s the perfect yin to Pat’s yang, and thanks to a script that keeps you guessing, you’re never quite sure what’s about to happen next.

That genuine surprise factor, not to mention a story that honestly explores the struggles of mental illness, warts and all, is what helps elevate this from your standard rom-com. Like Benny & Joon, minus all the stylized kookiness, Silver Linings Playbook is a joy to watch. More importantly, however, it extols the virtues of a family that truly sticks together through thick and thin—no cheesy pop soundtrack required.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol: Social drinking depicted throughout, frequent discussion of prescription drugs related to mental illness
  • Language/Profanity: A steady stream of f-bombs and other profanity including sh--, da--, he--, as-. A handful of exclamations of God’s names and uses of go-dam-. A couple of rude gestures and derogatory comments about people with mental illness, African Americans and Pat’s shrink from India.
  • Sex/Nudity: Rude references to male and female anatomy. A man discovers that his wife is having an affair with a fellow teacher, and he catches them in the act. First, we see their scattered clothing on the floor leading up the stairs, and eventually, we see his wife’s naked backside through a clear shower curtain. Oral sex is implied in the shower scene. A husband and wife are shown in bed together—no sex or nudity. Some kissing and making out. A few of the dancers wear sheer and/or cleavage-baring costumes. In a scene played for laughs, one dance move involves a guy lifting a girl up, and her crotch is basically in his face.
  • Violence: Pat clearly has anger issues, and when he confronts his wife’s lover, he punches him and stomps him in the face. Pat punches his mom in the shoulder, and his dad punches him in return. They start a fight that leads to black eyes and bruising. A man demolishes a hospital waiting room when he hears a song that’s an anger trigger. A scene involving the breaking of dishes. Several scenes with lots of yelling. Description of how a man was killed while stopping to help someone with a flat tire on the highway.

Christa Banister is an author and full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in Dallas, Texas, she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog

Publication date: November 21, 2012