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Wayback Wednesday: Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Chris Tucker needs to teach every dance class from now on.

In addition to the lovely reviews you enjoy each week, I also dabble in creative writing. I hope to write several novels in the future, undoubtedly outselling J.K. Rowling and the Bible combined. I’ve also tried my hand at screenwriting, something I was partially inspired to do after watching Silver Linings Playbook (2012) for the first time. Fantastically written and exceptionally acted, David O. Russell’s mega-hit is one of those movies that I could watch multiple times a year without complaint.

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Credit: / The Weinstein Company

Based on the novel by Matthew Quick, Silver Linings Playbook tells the story of Pat Solitano, Jr. and Tiffany Maxwell, a recent divorcee and widow respectively. Released from a mental health facility after receiving treatment for bipolar disorder, Pat works to win his wife back but ends up meeting Tiffany who is dealing with her own depression and relationship issues. In exchange for passing along a letter to his ex-wife, Pat agrees to be Tiffany’s partner in an upcoming amateur dance competition.

I’m a big fan of David O. Russell movies. American Hustle (2013) is a masterpiece and Joy (2015) is sensational. However, it’s Silver Linings Playbook that is the crown jewel of Russell’s career. Pulling double-duty as director and screenwriter, Russell crafts what is, in my eyes, a perfect movie. First of all, I’m a sucker for any movie that features a protagonist picking themselves up after a traumatic event, and over the course of the movie works towards bettering themselves. Add in a quick-witted script with effortless and believable dialogue, and you’ve got me hooked. What I love most about the script though is the humorous way it handles its subject matter. Pat and Tiffany are each dealing with their own mental illness, but the movie never mocks or ridicules it. Instead it finds the humour in the situation and elaborates on the parts of healing and living with mental illness that can be approached in a lighthearted way. I always find this brilliant, inoffensive, and undeniably entertaining. Speaking of, I must applaud the movie for its treatment of mental illness. Neither glamorizing or vilifying it, I like that one small thing Silver Linings Playbook says about mental health is that obsessing over the past can hinder your future, and that opening up to people and trying new things can be a beneficial way to help you through whatever it is you’re going through.

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Credit: / The Weinstein Company

I’ve always thought Bradley Cooper was sensational in this movie and firmly believe his Academy Award nomination for Best Actor was well deserved. Especially considering that before Silver Linings Playbook, he was best known for comedy roles in movies like Wedding Crashers (2005) and The Hangover (2009). I don’t think anyone was expecting him to be a brilliant dramatic actor as well. As Pat, Cooper is a phenomenal tour de force. He captures the joy of Pat’s triumphs and the pain of his defeats perfectly, and his nuanced performance masterfully blurs the line between actor and role. Pat’s journey of improving his health, strengthening his relationships with his friends and family, and his turbulent relationship with Tiffany are the trifecta of a stellar dramedy. Also, anytime you have someone with Cooper’s comedic timing playing a character bereft of shame, you’re guaranteed an endless supply of laughter.

By the way, can we talk about Pat’s parents, played by Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver? They’re great. I’m always totally enamored with a character when I could imagine them stepping out of the screen and walking into real life without feeling out of place, and that’s exactly the type of characters De Niro and Weaver play. Everything they say and do are utterly relatable and watching them is like stepping into your grandparents house to watch the big football game. See, this is the type of great, later-in-life dramatic role that a living legend like De Niro should be playing. Definitely not shit like Dirty Grandpa (2016). Shudder.

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Credit: / The Weinstein Company

A lot of movies like to advertise their lead couple as having a “roller-coaster” relationship, but in the case of Pat and Tiffany, it’s a term that actually fits. You never know when they’ll be up or when they’ll be down, and its thanks in small part to Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper’s magnetic chemistry, but mostly the former’s incredible range. Jennifer Lawrence earned that Oscar, bitch. It takes a lot of talent to play someone so real, and she nails the role. Tiffany’s distant stiffness coupled with her robotic tone and stone-cold delivery is fraught with tension, and it’s exciting that you can never predict her reactions. The unpredictability Lawrence brings to the role is electric. Oh my God, and then that monologue she delivers to Pat Sr. after Pat Jr. skipped out on their dance lesson? Flawless, and the scene I believe was pivotal to her getting nominated for Best Actress. God, there are so many perfect scenes in this movie like Pat and Tiffany’s run together, or the palpable diner scene.

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Credit: / The Weinstein Company

Uh, speaking of great scenes, everything about Pat and Tiffany at the dance competition is perfection. From the wonderfully weird routine that only two people who love to disrupt normality could pull off, to their failed Dirty Dancing (1987) lift, I was living for every second of it.  Their reaction to scoring a five for their performance is EVERYTHING and the way their unbridled excitement juxtaposes with a confused room of judges and dancers will never fail to make me laugh.

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Credit: / The Weinstein Company

I love this movie so much. I just think that it’s endearing as hell, captivating, expertly-made, and everyone involved is utterly fantastic. I’d go as far as to say that it’s a rare movie that’s impossible to hate. Simply put, it’s a winner of a movie. When the subplot of your movie involves an extreme amount of football stats and I’M still interested, you know you’ve done something right. If the excellent writing and acting don’t leave you spellbound, you were not paying proper attention to this movie.

Finally, I leave you with this: What happened to Chris Tucker? This was such an endearing and fun role for him, one that he executed perfectly, and I remember being genuinely excited to see what role he’d play next. I’m sad to report that he’s only done one hardly-remembered drama since, which is a true crime. I would love nothing more than for a young, fresh director to write a sharp and funny comedy-drama for Tucker to star in and show the world the charismatic leading man he can be. Maybe Bradley Cooper could do for him what he did for Lady Gaga?

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Credit: / The Weinstein Company

Are you a fan of Silver Linings Playbook? Do you want more Chris Tucker?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!


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