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Capone goes all kinds of crazy for David O. Russell's SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK!!!

Published at: Nov. 16, 2012, 3:05 a.m. CST by Capone

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.

Whenever I see a film in which a man and woman meet and the film seems hellbent on pushing the two together into a romantic relationship, I'll admit I tune out slightly, for the plain and simple reason that predictability bores me. It's not like I start thinking about picking up dry cleaning or which of my enemies I'd like to kill first; it's more about simply never connecting with the characters enough to care about their journey, let alone their destination. And then there's writer-director David O. Russell's SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (from the novel by Matthew Quick), in which two good-looking, mentally unstable characters (played by Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence) are brought together under circumstances that made me think "What the hell is going to happen to these two?" What a refreshingly welcome question.

Pat Solantano (Cooper) has just been conditionally released from a state mental institution and into the hands (and home) of his parents, Pat Sr. and Dolores (Robert De Niro and the phenomenal Jacki Weaver). He was admitted to the facility after a very painful breakup with his wife, whom he still seems convinced he will be reunited with. He runs into an old friend (John Ortiz), who invites Pat over for dinner to meet his wife's sister Tiffany (Lawrence), whose troubled past is something more of a mystery, but we know it includes a dead husband and sleeping with pretty much everyone at her former job. Their first meet is far from cute. In fact, it's rather aggressively awful, but they somehow come out the other side of dinner having arranged a get together and at least recognizing that their forms of crazy might somehow complement each other.

Aside from being attractive, Lawrence and Cooper have a natural banter that might be interpreted as antagonistic, except that each time they meet and talk, they seem to break through to the other's emotional core just a little bit more. It's a painful process to watch much of the time—he can't stop talking about his ex and she is clearly in desperate need to someone to stabilize her and has for some reason pinpointed this wildly unstable man as that person. It's a remarkable pairing that is impossible to take your eyes off of.

But SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK isn't just about these two, thankfully. Like all of Russell's films (THE FIGHTER, THREE KIGNS, FLIRTING WITH DISASTER), the supporting cast provides an ample garden for the lead characters to grow in. De Niro hasn't been this good in a very long time. He's a man who is burdened with a hardcore belief in superstitions, especially when it concerns his sainted Philadelphia Eagles. He wants desperately to support his son in his time of need, but he completely at a loss about how to deal with Pat Jr.'s particular issues. There's a scene in which he and Tiffany first meet that is one of my favorite moments in any film this year, as she strips away one of his dearly held superstitions and replaces it with another equally ridiculous one. The verbal gymnastics in this film are breathtaking.

And this movie is not just a story of a family; it's about a family from Philadelphia. And much like THE FIGHTER made the Boston area a character in the film, this film does the same, right down to Weaver's pitch-perfect eastern Pennsylvania accent and colloquialisms. Russell has become a filmmaker to whom place is not just something to duplicate or capture; it's essential to the story in so many ways.

One of the film's most unexpected turns is a bargain struck between Pat and Tiffany. She agrees to deliver a letter to his ex (her sister, played by Julia Stiles, is still friends with the ex) if he becomes her ballroom dance partner for a contest she's planning on entering. It sounds like a contrivance, I know, but there is something so desperate in her need to make this work that all forms of cutesiness are jettisoned almost instantly.

I should also mention that Russell has once again assembled a rather remarkable supporting cast that ranges from Chris Tucker as a fellow patient at the institution to the ever-reliable Shea Whigham as Pat's brother to Anupam Kher as Pat's therapist. It's a stellar line-up that adds texture to this already solid cast. I was particularly impressed with Tucker, who plays it straight for the most part while still making us laugh (despite ourselves) at his affliction.

There are no guaranteed outcomes in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, although you'll probably have a few hunches about who ends up with whom. But the true measure of the film's success is its level of unpredictability, which sometimes runs counter to its charm. Lawrence's Tiffany is a certified mess of a human being, but our reaction to her isn't about sympathy. We warm to her because she wants to desperately to be better. Pat's issues are darker. I spent half the film thinking one or both of these characters was going to attempt suicide, and that wouldn't have been out of the realm of possibility.

I've now seen Lawrence in exactly seven movies, and each time I leave one of her films, I think I know what she's capable of. By the next one, she's surprised me once again with her range and abilities. Still, nothing quite prepared me for how impressive she is in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK. Part of her success here is thanks to a rich script, but she adds a level of force and energy that I simply wasn't prepared to see from her, and I hope she enjoys all of those awards luncheons she'll be attending early next year. And I don't mean to undersell Cooper either. I'm guessing most of you haven't seen him in full dramatic mode, and I like this version of him better.

This is a film that reveals itself to you one layer at a time. Just when you think you know the characters or what's coming next, things shift just enough to catch you off guard. What a rare and unexpected treat from a mainstream release. Sometimes devastating, always entertaining, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK succeeds at being both surprising and fulfilling.

-- Steve Prokopy
"Capone"
capone@aintitcool.com
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Readers Talkback

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  • Nov. 16, 2012, 3:53 a.m. CST

    Great review.....I'm sold

    by Clio

  • Nov. 16, 2012, 4:05 a.m. CST

    Kign of Typos.

    by Fries Against

  • Nov. 16, 2012, 5 a.m. CST

    Isn't bag of cocks Cooper like 40 years older than Lawrence?

    by Xiphos_2

    Some writer has daddy issues. I would let her call me daddy.

  • Nov. 16, 2012, 6:44 a.m. CST

    yeah, Hollywood generally pairs up couples with large age differences

    by Spandau Belly

    For awhile it was Zooey Deschannel with old dudes. Jim Carrey, Mark Walhberg, Will Farrell etc. I mean, Cooper looks 40 and Lawrence is still convincingly playing teenagers. If I saw them together in real life I would assume he was her dad. But I'm just so used to it in movies that I don't even think about it anymore.

  • Nov. 16, 2012, 7:50 a.m. CST

    I Wanna See This

    by Brian

    A lot of names involved that make for a viewing within the first two weeks of release. And Cooper is 17 years older than Lawrence. These things happen, folks.

  • Nov. 16, 2012, 8:39 a.m. CST

    um guys my last girlfriend turned 22, I was 31. ;-)

    by Norman Colson

    it does happen, beside bradley cooper is a pretty boy he can get young chicks it aint no problem. this is the second time ive seen that sort of age bias wth?

  • Nov. 16, 2012, 10:44 a.m. CST

    The problem with the old dude/young chick thing is...

    by Nasty In The Pasty

    ...that you rarely see it the other way around, and if you do, that's ENTIRELY what the movie is about (How Stella Got Her Groove Back, White Palace, ect.). How often do you see actors in their forties and older paired romantically with women their own age? That's why I liked the 1999 remake of The Thomas Crown Affair...seeing a smoking-hot MILF 45-year-old Rene Russo cavorting nakedly with Pierce Brosnan instead of some 20-year-old fetus. I remember that Bullworth movie, with a 65-year-old (or whatever) Warren Beatty paired with a then-thirty-ish Halle Berry, and...ick.

  • Nov. 16, 2012, 11:29 a.m. CST

    ghost-of-chainsaw, you know you never had a girlfriend.

    by kindofabigdeal

    JK

  • Nov. 16, 2012, 11:30 a.m. CST

    I love how Capones reviews are always in conflict with Kidds.

    by kindofabigdeal

    I know it's because Kidd is just that, a kid. He can't handle adult films. (and i dont mean porn)

  • Nov. 16, 2012, 1:53 p.m. CST

    Capone vs. The Kidd

    by UncleScrooge

    Great, now I have to see this just so I know whose reviews to pay attention to in the future. In the past, I think I've agreed with Capone, but this could usher in a new era. Oh.....and I do take bribes.

  • Nov. 16, 2012, 7:37 p.m. CST

    Capone 1, Kidd 0

    by Clio

  • Nov. 17, 2012, 5:17 a.m. CST

    Went to a SLP preview last week...

    by RAZ0RBACK

    ...and can confirm Capone's review is pretty much spot on.

  • Nov. 17, 2012, 5:32 p.m. CST

    Jennifer Lawrence is wonderful.

    by Raptor Jesus

    I'll see almost anything she's in. Almost.

  • Nov. 17, 2012, 6:41 p.m. CST

    Jacki Weaver

    by TrueLies

    Jennifer Lawrence is a star on her way up. Bradley Cooper is interesting. David O.Russel has a great work history. I loved Three Kings and Flirting With Disaster. Never saw The Fighter. These days, unfortunately, you just can't tell with Robert DeNiro... Jacki Weaver is the real reason I will see this movie. I saw her in Animal Kingdom. She is 100% high quality and acting skill. Glad to hear this movie gives her something to work with.

  • Nov. 18, 2012, 5:51 p.m. CST

    Cool

    by Jeff

    Good review, Capone. Thanks. I've really liked Cooper since "Alias," and Lawrence definitely got my attention with her unbelievably powerful role as a teenager trying to save her family in the meth-addicted rural Ozarks in "Winter's Bone." I still get chills thinking about that. They're both very talented, versatile actors, no doubt about it. And it's great to read DeNiro brought his A-game for the first time in years. And what more can I say about David O. Russell? Loved "Three Kings" and I'll defnitely be seeing this.

  • Nov. 19, 2012, 10:45 p.m. CST

    Capone you are easily my favorite AICN writer

    by Razier

    Your taste in movies is so close to mine it is uncanny. I hope to meet you at Ebertfest one of these years.