I still have to see many more awards contenders, but Silver Linings Playbook is an early favorite. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, charming, moving, wacky, and…well, you’ll have to see for yourself.

Bradley Cooper plays Pat, a bipolar former teacher newly released from a court-ordered stay at a psychiatric facility, eight months after an incident had made him turn violent. He moves back in with his parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver), determined to rebuild his life and win back his wife, Nikki, despite everyone telling him she’s moved on.

He meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), whose cop husband recently died, and rumor has it she’s dealing with her grief by turning into the town slut. Their lack of social skills and edit buttons make others wary, but the two form a tenuous bond that lead to surprising discoveries about themselves.

The biggest surprise for me was finding that Cooper could act. I’ve never been a fan because I’ve never been able to sympathize with any of his characters (this includes Will on Alias). Not only is he sympathetic here, he takes on mental illness, one of the two hardest conditions to portray convincingly—the other is drunkenness—because the inclination is to overdo it.

But Pat desperately wants to show how well he’s coping post-treatment so Cooper suppresses the crazies, keeping his character grounded while allowing us to see that the cracks are right beneath the surface and could reappear any moment. Pat is not so much unhinged as someone who’s passionate and idealistic and doesn’t understand why the rest of the world doesn’t feel the same way.

Lawrence is even more impressive as the only person who does understand Pat. She has never been more alluring and self-assured than she is here. She goes toe to toe with De Niro in one scene and comes out on top (it’s written that way but still takes a skilled thespian to pull it off). She’s not a girl but a woman on fire; this is a mature, full-blooded performance from a young actress who keeps getting better. I think a long career is ahead of her if she wants it, and an Oscar nomination is almost certain for this role.

In adapting Matthew Quick’s novel, director-writer David O. Russell, a gifted but inconsistent auteur, has crafted his most mainstream, uplifting movie yet. Among its pleasures is its unpredictability. The story takes odd turns, making me ask at times, “Where is this going?” and “How did we get here?” The answer is by Russell throwing out the playbook of Hollywood cliches.

Nerd verdict: Silver Linings has a shot at Oscar gold

Photos: The Weinstein Company



  • Reply
    November 16, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    Wow, PCN, you actually ALMOST make me want to see this. I have such an aversion to Cooper I’m not sure I will overcome it, but the premise and the rest of the case might do it. Not sure what it is about him, he is just a turnoff for me in every way. I find him very smarmy, never got the Sexiest Man Alive thing, but can usually put that aside if someone can act. So maybe this will be the performance that wins me over. Or maybe not but I’ll enjoy it anyway.

    Thanks for the writeup!

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      November 16, 2012 at 1:52 pm

      You saw what I wrote about my feelings toward Cooper, but he is good in this. I don’t think he’d prevent you from enjoying the movie.

      • Reply
        November 16, 2012 at 2:01 pm

        I did see, and that’s what may change my mind about seeing it. But in everything else I see him in, he just creeps me out, good acting or not. Losing the hair might help. We’ll see. 🙂

  • Reply
    November 21, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    I want to see this. I’m turning into a Jennifer Laurence fan and I don’t mind watching Cooper, great acting or not. I do agree that I rarely sympathize with his characters on screen.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      November 21, 2012 at 11:37 pm

      She is so good in this, Stacey. I was entranced. Have you read the book?

  • Reply
    November 27, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    In my wildest dreams I would not think of pairing up Lawrence and Cooper, but WOW. Just saw it last last night. It’s a really good film.

  • Reply
    Sara J Henry
    December 1, 2012 at 6:22 am

    LOVED this movie – unxpectedly so.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      December 1, 2012 at 10:07 am

      Me, too, Sara.

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