Silver Linings Playbook
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Silver Linings Playbook

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Bestselling novels have proven to be a very fertile ground for movie screenplay. After all the story has a proven track record with the public, garnered a positive reputation and offers a chance for actors to interpret characters that are already a known quantity to the perspective members of the audience. In fact if the novel is sufficiently high profile then there will be a targeted demographic already firmly in place, the down side is the fans of the novel expect a literal translation of the beloved book brought to life on the screen. Of course those typically prove to be unrealistic expectations going into a viewing of the film. The differences in story telling methodology between the written word and the visually driven motion picture is vast and many well intended filmmakers have failed to properly make the transition. The alterations in pacing, plot motivation, character development and necessity for dramatic license often make this job untenable. Fortunately for the fans of Matthew Quick and his widely popular novel ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ the migration to the screen overseen by writer/director David O. Russell the results ate exceptional. I don’t always manage to do so but in a few high profile cases I doo seek of the original novel for my e-reader and devour it before I got an opportunity to review the Blu-ray edition. As it turned out I was doubly rewarded in doing so; first the book is excellent and second it reaffirmed my hopes that the film would be able to expertly capture the tone and full emotional impact of the novel. There is a valid reason why this movie was the darling of the award season with an impressive six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Direction and all four Acting categories with a win for Jenifer Lawrence for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

After eight months of in-patient care in a mental health facility Pat Solitano Jr. (Bradley Cooper) found himself back in the real world, released from the therapeutic environment he had become accustomed to. He is not entirely on his own being released to the custodianship of his parents. The diagnosis that rationalized his interment was bi-polar disorder, and after several other methods failed to produce the desired results a more secure environment was deemed preferable. During his time inside Pat became close friends with an incorrigible patient, Danny (Chris Tucker), whose constant stream of legal actions directed towards the hospital. When Pat finally reenters the world he is faced with several major changes. Among the first is the court mandated continued therapy Dr. Cliff Patel (Anupam Kher), intended to ease Pat’s transition into the less restricted environment outside the hospital walls,

In many ways having such a support system in place could prove to be beneficial to Pat as he faces the serious changes in his personal world but that would not be a simple matter to achieve. His previous job of high school teacher had grounded him before his symptoms fully manifested. He came home from work one day to find his wife Nikki (Brea Bee) taking a steamy shower with another man. To make the situation more humiliating their wedding song was playing in the background. His response was to administer a violently beating the man. Pat remains resistant to pharmaceutical management of his symptoms. Upon his release Pat discovers that his father Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro) has hit with the economic down turn and loss his job. In order to make ends meet Dad has turned to bookmaking in hope of gathering the capital required to open his own restaurant.

In and romantically themed story there has to be that tipping point moment that serves to initiate forward emotional motive. In this case it happens innocently when Pat accepts a dinner invitation with an old friend, Ronnie (John Ortiz). Another dinner guest just happens to be Ronnie’s sister-in-law, Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a recently widowed young woman. Tiffany’s life is on a downward spiral; besides losing her husband she recently lost her job. This establishes a classic set of circumstances familiar to anyone that has gotten into romance literature or movies; a pair of damaged people adrift in life after undeserved misfortune has struck in full force. Tiffany finds herself in an uncomfortable passion when Nikki is recruited as a go between passing letters between Nikki seeking a reconciliation and Pat. Meanwhile Pat and Tiffany and begun a friendship based on a compatible set of neuroses. This establishes the requisite romantic triangle to create the dramatic tension necessary to propel the character arcs.

What helps to differentiate the story from other examples of the genre and provide an attraction for male viewers is the infusion of a football motif to the mix. Looking for a quick boon in finances Pat Sr. asks his son to go to a Philadelphia Eagles game with him. Considering his new vocation he was induced by using his son as a ‘good luck charm’ to bet everything he has on the game. Pat was supposed to go with Tiffany to her dance practice critical to her involvement in an upcoming competition. Pat regrets accompanying his dad instead of a beautiful woman when he becomes involved in a fight with some thugs; the outing made worse when the Eagles lose the game.

The story manages to ideally balance two forms of competition; a sporting event, football and a form of artistic expression, dance. Much of the appeal of the film is generated by how well the differences and similarities between the two forms of physical activity is handled. It provides a unique foundation to build the character arcs and further the dilemmas they collectively face. This had the effect of taking extremely familiar and overly used tropes into something excitingly fresh. This is a romantic film that men and women can embrace and enjoy equally; a rare and wonderful commodity in this usually feminine oriented type of film. From a script vantage point Russell seems to balance on that thin line between keeping true to the original themes and emotional integrity while making the story his own. This is frequently done with established classics in literature so it should not come as too much of a surprise a talented filmmaker employed the techniques to a recent literary work. His previous successes in combining screen writing and direction seamlessly into expressing himself as a filmmaker include I Heart Huckabees’’,’ Flirting with Disaster’ and his other dual Oscar nomination for writing, direction and picture, ‘The Fighter’. This is a man whose considerable talents have been sharpened by experience and working with the best material and performers on the scene today. David O. Russell is one of the forces to reckon with in today’s film industry,

It would be easy for Jennifer Lawrence to become type cast, as an extremely beautiful young woman currently starring in one of film’s most popular action franchises around, ‘The Hunger Games’. The thing is Lawrence went into that much sought after role with an Academy Award Best Actress nomination. If you have every watch her in interviews she possesses a natural charm that makes her seem relatable; a quality that readily transfers over to her on screen performances. With the support of a seasoned cast include Robert Di Niro this film is a treat that will entertain no matter how many times you experience it.

Posted 04/27/2013

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