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Four acting nominations -- and then some
January 28, 2013
“Silver Linings Playbook”
**** (out of four)
When the credits rolled for “Silver Linings Playbook,” I turned to my wife and said, “Can’t we just stay here and watch it again?”
I was also thinking, “Time to rewrite my best-of-2012 list again.”
“Playbook” goes very close to top.
Written and directed by David O. Russell (“The Fighter”), this feel-good dramedy is both painful and uproarious -- often at the same time.
There’s scarcely a single character who isn’t seriously messed up -- and that constitutes much of its singular charm.
Bradley Cooper plays Pat Salitano, a Philadelphia teacher who’s just gotten out of an institution after nearly beating to death a coworker he found in the shower with his wife.
Pat’s father (Robert De Niro) is pathologically obsessed with Eagles football; his mother (Jacki Weaver) is a tender heart whose response to crisis is to cook more appetizers; and his new friend Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) seems even more unbalanced than Pat.
He’s a lifelong manic-depressive still obsessed over regaining his faithless and demanding wife; Tiffany flails for an anchor in the wake of her husband’s death -- a struggle she’s expressed by, among other things, having sex with every single co-worker.
At their first meeting, Pat tells Tiffany, “You have poor social skills”; as if in proof, she later insults his football jersey and then, not wanting to see it, declares, “You can f--- me if you turn the lights off first.”
From there, the relationship has nowhere to go but up.
In many ways, “Silver Linings” is a love story about Pat and Tiffany slowly figuring out what the audience sees at once -- namely, that each has what the other needs.
Don’t be surprised if Russell takes the directing Oscar for this film; the many scenes in which these competing oddballs argue and shout -- often with several talking at the same time -- are masterpieces of tension and hilarity.
His script, from a novel by Matthew Quick, is peppered with prickly, idiosyncratic dialog and unexpectedly funny moments that will resonate with viewers willing to recall their own social awkwardness.
Lawrence -- who already took a Golden Globe -- is almost a shoo-in for the Best Actress Oscar; it’s amazing how much emotion she layers into a single gesture or expression.
Both she and Cooper make us care so desperately for these badly flawed people that “Silver Linings” casts a mesmerizing spell; it’s as gripping as a well-made action movie.
Kudos also to Chris Tucker, comically manic as a one of Pat’s fellow patients -- and to Shea Whigham, bringing a lifetime of emotion to his brief role as Pat’s older brother.
The film deserves its eight Oscar nominations, including nods for Cooper, Lawrence, De Niro and Weaver.
It’s the first movie in 31 years to be nominated in all four acting categories (the last was “Reds”).
“Silver Linings” is an enchanting tale whose feel-good, Capra-style ending might’ve been corny if it hadn’t been earned by all the pain that’s gone before.