Silver Linings Playbook Review
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Award season releases tend to fit into some basic formulas. They generally tell the same stories. They’re usually oppressively long and heavy. And they’re typically much more popular with critics than they are with the average moviegoer. But The Fighter director David O. Russell’s latest contender, Silver Linings Playbook, is anything but heavy. In fact, it’s something that you rarely find on the award season’s must-see lists: a crowd-pleasing rom-com.

After spending eight months in a psychiatric hospital in Baltimore, Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) returns home to Philadelphia, determined to get in shape, get his life in order, and get his wife back. Sure, she got a restraining order following the “episode” that sent him away, but he’s convinced that there’s a silver lining—and he’s going to find it. In the meantime, he has no choice but to agree to the demands placed on him by his doting mother (Jacki Weaver) and his obsessive-compulsive bookie dad (Robert De Niro).

Along the road to recovery, Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a young widow who’s also dealing with her share of issues—and the two strike a mutually-beneficial agreement that turns into an uneasy friendship.

While this year’s list of award contenders is already filling up with the usual period dramas and literary adaptations, Silver Linings Playbook is a refreshingly light and easy-going addition to the mix. While the characters and their stories are messy and dysfunctional enough to make them fit quite nicely into the usual award season mold, they’re also sweet and lovable and funny enough to make the overall experience as enjoyable as it is moving.

Cooper may be the leader of The Hangover’s wolf pack and People’s 2011 Sexiest Man Alive, but he wastes no time in proving that he’s not just another pretty face—nor is he just another brainless party boy. The charming star shows sweetness and vulnerability is his starring role, effortlessly navigating through the manic highs and violent lows—the laughter and the tears—of his character’s bipolar disorder. And he manages to do it all while keeping an endearingly positive attitude that will leave audiences with an undeniably warm, fuzzy feeling. It’s the kind of performance of which Oscar nods are made.

Lawrence’s strong, edgy role, on the other hand, is no real surprise. After all, the young actress received her first Oscar nomination for playing a tough-as-nails teen in 2010’s Winter’s Bone before going on to star as teen warrior Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games. But while she’s no stranger to playing strong, gritty characters, Lawrence still shines as the tough young widow.

Silver Linings Playbook is loaded with drama and dysfunction and damaged characters—but that doesn’t make it a dry or depressing film. Instead, it’s sweet and uplifting and absolutely irresistible—an award season pick that both critics and audiences can enjoy.

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