In 'Silver Linings Playbook,' Lawrence Is Golden | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

In 'Silver Linings Playbook,' Lawrence Is Golden

The best thing about David O. Russell is that he cultivates his disequilibrium. In Silver Linings Playbook, his hero is disturbed and his heroine possibly more so, and his other characters have a grip on reality that is only marginally more secure. Russell might have made them seem the dreaded "q" word — quirky — and OK, he does, a bit, at the end, which broadly conforms to the rom-com template. But until then, Bradley Cooper's Pat Solatano is someone you'd be less likely to dream about than get a restraining order against.

In fact, that's what his wife has done at the start, which finds Pat, diagnosed with bipolar disorder, in a mental hospital — a place where the phrase "silver lining" as in "every cloud has a ... " is a mantra. In the novel by Matthew Quick, he's been there for four years after violently assaulting someone. Here, it's a mere eight months — and he acts like he could have used the extra three-plus years.

After his mother, played by Jacki Weaver, drives him home to the Philly suburbs, he throws A Farewell to Arms through his bedroom window because of the tragic ending, and he smashes furniture outside his psychiatrist's office when "Ma Cherie Amour" — his wedding song — plays in the waiting room.

While Pat pines for the reunion with his wife that he's certain will come, he lives with his mother and obsessive-compulsive father, Robert De Niro's Pat Sr., who has started gambling heavily on the Philadelphia Eagles.

He spends his days working out and running, until his friend Ronnie, played by John Ortiz, invites him to dinner — where Ronnie's wife (Julia Stiles) fixes him up with her widowed sister, Jennifer Lawrence's Tiffany. We think, "Who would fix her sister up with him?" — until we meet Tiffany, and wonder which of the two has more to fear.

To director Russell, Pat and Tiffany are a hell-match made in heaven. Russell is, by all reports, a tempestuous fellow given to screaming matches and fistfights with actors — and I mention that not for gossip's sake, but because his films are similarly unruly: Think of Flirting with Disaster, Three Kings, I Heart Huckabees and The Fighter, in which the title character is the least pugnacious. Russell relishes the escalating momentum of people rubbing each other wrong. Although Tiffany likes Pat, Pat doesn't want to date her; he wants his wife back. But despite — or maybe because of — the friction, they bond indelibly.

Actors covet roles like these, and, indeed, Cooper co-executive-produced Silver Linings Playbook to get it made. To convey Pat's state of mind, he speaks loudly, with little variation in pitch. His eyes are unblinking. It's not an imaginative performance, but it's scary pure.

It's Lawrence who stunned me. I loved her in Winter's Bone and The Hunger Games, but she's very young — I didn't think she had this kind of deep-toned, layered weirdness in her. Chris Tucker plays a fellow patient of Pat's whose few scenes are dazzling in their topsy-turvy rhythms, and the rest of the cast is fine, although De Niro's funny turn struck me as Method throat-clearing with no launch — but that's the role.

Silver Linings Playbook has a conventional climax. There's a dance competition featuring nondancers Pat and Tiffany with a lot riding on it. It's exhilarating but unsurprising. I like the movie best when it's discombobulated.

Here's my favorite line, Tiffany's, when she intervenes to keep Pat from being arrested after a fight. The officer recognizes her as the wife of a late cop, saying, "You're Tommy's widow," and she says, "Yes, I'm Tommy's crazy whore widow minus the whore thing, sometimes."

The zigs and zags in that one line — the exhibitionism, self-hatred and defensiveness — could make you crazy trying to diagram. Which is just how David O. Russell likes it. Me too.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

In A Remarkable Feat, 'Boyhood' Makes Time Visible

Boyhood is about a boy in Texas whose parents have separated. Filmed over 12 years, audiences watch him grow up — and his worldview evolve. The cumulative power of the movie is tremendous.
NPR

Spread Of Palm Oil Production Into Africa Threatens Great Apes

Palm oil growers are setting their sights on Africa as they amp up production. More than half of the land that's been set aside for plantations in Africa overlaps with ape habitats, researchers say.
NPR

Newspaper Editor, Activist John Seigenthaler Dies At 86

He worked for The Tennessean and took leave to assist Robert F. Kennedy in the White House and during the senator's 1968 presidential campaign. He later helped shape USA Today.
NPR

Friday Feline Fun: A Ranking Of The Most Famous Internet Cats

Forget the Forbes Celebrity 100. This is the Friskies 50 — the new definitive guide of the most influential cats on the Internet. The list is based on a measure of the cats' social media reach.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.