“You have poor social skills. You have a problem”
David O Russell the writer / director of such films as Three Kings (1999) I Heart Huckabees (2004) and The Fighter (2010) returns with his latest offering; Silver Linings Playbook (Playbook)
Playbook tells the story of Pat Solitano Jr (Bradley Cooper), a bi-polar sufferer who he is released back into society to live with his parents after eight months of treatment. Pat Jr. is attempting to reconcile with his wife Nikki, wanting to show her that his time away has changed him and that he is ready to begin his life with her again. As he attempts to rehabilitate he meets and befriends Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence), a recent widow, afflicted by loss and depression and recent redundancy, suffering from an absence of self worth to boot. Through their shared neuroses, the two develop a deeper affection and trust for each other as Pat Jr, with Tiffany’s help, aims to win back his wife Nikki (Brea Bee).
Pat Jr. is supported in his attempts at redemption by a stellar support and acting group. His father Par Sr. (Robert DeNiro), his mother Dolores (Jacki Weaver), his friend and fellow mental health patient Danny (Chris Tucker), and his therapist Dr Cliff Patel (Anupam Kher) all do their utmost to keep him on the road to recovery.
The central performances by Cooper and Lawrence are the heartbeat to the film. Russell’s words on the page give us these damaged characters, but it is through Cooper and Lawrence’s interpretation and embodiment of the script that makes these two individuals come to life. You care for these characters in a way you don’t for characters in Argo (Ben Affleck’s Oscar winning film). You route for them from their first non date all the way to their non mawkish dance recital performance.
This sense of caring is not limited to the two central figures. DeNiro, Weaver and a surprising turn from Tucker have you wishing only the very best for all involved. It is testament to the intuitive writing and directing of Russell and the organic acting on show, that made me wish I could have stayed with these people long after the 122 minutes had come to an end.
“I opened up to you, and you judged me”
Disgracefully Playbook only picked up one Oscar; Jennifer Lawrence for Best Actress, for which she most certainly deserved the acclaim. But when a career defining performance from Cooper appears before you, DeNiro proving he still has it and the consummate writing and directing from Russell go unrewarded it begs the question? Why bother with the Oscars if it is only ever going to be politically motivated? “Argo, fuck yourself” ……Argo!
Playbook is a superbly crafted film, it is arguably Russell’s most consistent work in many years. Russell’s realism in his directing style is only enhanced by the naturalistic performances by the cast and the clever and honest dialogue in the self penned screenplay. It is apparent why the film received so many plaudits, working at every layer as a complete movie, proving Russell to be a true virtuoso.
A masterful film, a must see.
Rating: 5 / 5
words by david rushe