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Movie review: 'Silver Linings Playbook' good, but is it Oscar-worthy?

Posted: January 30, 2013 - 4:02pm  |  Updated: February 1, 2013 - 10:52am
Robert De Niro watches as Jennifer Lawrence accepts the award for outstanding female actor in a leading role for "Silver Linings Playbook" at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)  John Shearer/Invision/AP
John Shearer/Invision/AP
Robert De Niro watches as Jennifer Lawrence accepts the award for outstanding female actor in a leading role for "Silver Linings Playbook" at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)

“Silver Linings Playbook”

Weinstein Company

2 hours, 2 minutes

 

With the awards season in full swing, the Peninsula is seeing a surge in movies that the rest of the country got to see weeks or even months ago. I’m complaining, but deep down I don’t really mind. This is a small community and there are only five screens in the area, eight total on the entire Peninsula. If I wanted to live in a big city, I could see a new movie every night, so long as I didn’t mind the possibility of getting shot walking back to my car. It’s a trade-off. So I have to wait a little longer to see “Lincoln” or “Zero Dark Thirty.” Talk about your first-world problems.

The downside of waiting for some of these movies, this week’s “Silver Linings Playbook” included, is that the hype can lead to unrealistic expectations. “Linings” is good, definitely — a solid dramedy with stellar performances, but a nominee for Best Picture? Maybe I’m missing something. Bradley Cooper stars as Pat Solitano, recently released from a psychiatric hospital for severely beating his wife’s lover after catching them in the act. Pat has certainly got problems, impulse control being utmost among them.

In hopes of regaining the love of his wife, and in an attempt to reintegrate into society, Pat moves back into his parents’ Philadelphia home, but things are still tense. For one, Pat’s father has problems of his own. Pat Sr., played beautifully by Robert DeNiro, has lost his pension and has turned to bookmaking to create an income. He has a dream of opening a restaurant, but OCD and a destructive compulsive love for the Philadelphia Eagles are putting all that at risk.

At just about the time Pat’s home life seems on the verge of explosion, in walks Tiffany, a girl from the neighborhood and friend of a friend who is going to turn it all upside down. Recently widowed, Tiffany is a mental disaster zone, depressed, manic, angry, and rapidly approaching meltdown. A dance competition, and a burgeoning friendship with Pat, however, might just make the difference — maybe even for both of them.

“Silver Linings Playbook” is the kind of movie that has Oscar written all over it, but enjoyable as it is, I feel like it’s kind of a cheat. This movie never claims to be grim or gritty, but it feels like it should be reality-based, and one unlikely situation after another kills some of the dramatic, or even comedic tension. When Pat’s friend Danny, played by a surprisingly restrained Chris Tucker, escapes from the hospital and there’s no consequence, it takes me out of the movie. When we are asked to believe that a person as volatile as Pat was a successful high school teacher, I don’t buy it. He can barely function in a room full of adults, and that’s after 8 months of hospitalization. Six classes a day of 30 kids each would have caused him to snap long before his wife did. Pat Sr. is obviously also mentally ill, and despite building a beautifully performed relationship between Cooper and DeNiro as father and son, there’s never any emotional payoff as far as his illness goes. Instead, “Linings” prefers to wrap everything up neatly in a sweet, but clunky third act.

Problems with the story aside, “Silver Linings Playbook” has rightly been applauded for the acting on display. Bradley Cooper gives the best performance of his career as Pat. I like Cooper, but he typically plays the same kind of guy — smarmy, self-assured, smooth. With last year’s “Limitless” and now this, I can really see him stepping into serious leading man roles.

DeNiro, who has been, in my humble opinion, coasting for the last several years, shows a real return to form. Interestingly, he co-starred with Cooper in “Limitless.” I only wish the resolution of DeNiro’s character, Pat Sr., had been given as much attention as the performance demanded.

Best of all, however, is Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany. She is stellar in this role. Lawrence just gets better and better with every new role. At just 22, she now has two Best Actress Oscar nominations under her belt. And with three more “Hunger Games” films on the way, as well as at least one more “X-Men” movie, her star will probably burn bright for a while to come.

As much as I liked the acting, and as much as I did find the movie funny and charming, though somewhat obnoxious, it’s hard to overlook the sloppiness of the narrative. Predictable and pat, the film wants to show off it’s performers much more than it wants to let them, or the audience, grow. Ultimately, there’s not really anything learned or gained in all this chaos. “Silver Linings Playbook” looks pretty, but it’s only surface deep.

Grade: B-

“Silver Linings Playbook” is rated R for pervasive language, brief violence, and brief nudity.

 

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

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