No matter how hard you might resist itís impossible not to fall head over heels for Silver Linings Playbook, as itís likely to be the most charming film about mental illness youíre likely to come across. In dealing with such a tricky and sensitive subject matter, it balances the line between comedy and drama, never fully committing to one tone over the other for any long stretch. Thankfully, writer-director David Russell, still fresh from his career resurrection 2010ís the Fighter provided, masterfully blends the two together in the greatest outing of his career.
Certainly the writing is a strong suit, yet Silver Liningsí greatest asset is its casting, and boy do they deliver. Hands down, this is the best-acted film of the year. Bradley Cooper, who Iíve never thought highly of and feared he was gravely miscast when the project was first announced, is nothing short of a revelation. For once, heís not douchey, instead bringing to light the honest conflict of a man trying to stay on the positive side of a midlife crisis amid frequent outbursts brought on by a bipolar disorder. Itís a career-redefining performance.
On the other side is Jennifer Lawrence, who unlike Cooper Iíve always been impressed by her acting ability, and once again she raises the bar to a new personal height. Sheís just as mentally unstable as Cooperís character, the two really are quite the perfect match despite the age difference, combining the backbone that earned her an Oscar nomination for Winterís Bone with a sharp talker wit and haughty, take-no-prisoners attitude, the likes of which she hasnít really shown before. Both are locks for plenty of awards attention, and Lawrence has a decent shot at Best Actress.
Then, as if proving Cooper is actually a legitimate actor wasnít enough, Russell does more of the unthinkable Ė gets the least annoying performance of Chris Tuckerís career, also his first non Rush Hour role in over a decade, and an emotionally resonant turn from Robert De Niro, easily his best and most serious work in probably just as long. The rest of the supporting players are fantastic as well, and like I said thereís not a weak link in the bunch.
I suppose at its core Silver Linings Playbook could be considered a romantic comedy, as the feel good ending seemingly betrays. However, hardly any of it plays out or seems to live in the trappings of said genre, and the touching moments it does have all feel deservedly earned. The way it captures the different relationships and issues between the characters, giving you people to genuinely root for and care about in a non-sappy way, is an accomplishment that cannot be understated, which is why itís already garnered an incredible reaction amongst the film world. It won the prestigious Peopleís Choice Award at Toronto, an honor recent Best Picture winners Slumdog Millionaire and the Kingís Speech also took home, and is without a doubt one of 2012ís absolute finest offerings. I, for one, will be cheering for Oscar gold come awards night.