The nominations: Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing
The film: Pat Solatano Jr. (Bradley Cooper) has, after eight months in a psychiatric facility for assaulting his wife Nikki’s lover and for previously undiagnosed bipolar disorder, been released into his parents’ care after being retrieved by his mother Dolores (Jacki Weaver). After coming home he learns that Nikki has moved away and that his father Pat Sr. (Robert DeNiro) is out of the job and is now working as a bookie to earn money to invest in a restaurant. With a fiercely positive outlook on life, Pat resolves to get himself in peek physical and mental health, certain that it will put him on the direct road to reconcile with his wife, lifting the restraining order she put against him. Pat meets with his court-appointed therapist Dr. Patel to whom he explains about his plan to get back his teaching position at the high school where he once worked. After Pat throws a tantrum over hearing Stevie Wonder’s “My Cherie Amour” over the office intercom, Pat explains it was that song, that he danced to at his wedding, that he found his wife and her lover listening to while in the shower having sex, enraging him to beat the man nearly to death. Against Dr. Patel’s advice, Pat insists that he has a handle on his condition that he doesn’t need medication to help.
In attempt to reconnect with his regular life, Pat goes to dinner with his friend Ronnie and his wife Veronica. It is there that Pat meets Veronica’s sister Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) who is herself a bit unhinged having recently become a widow and losing her job. Pat is initially put off by Tiffany’s forwardness and her proclivity for stalking Pat on his jogging route, but after encouragement from Dr. Patel, Pat relents to being friends with her. Bonding over their neuroses Pat and Tiffany become friends, entering into an agreement that Tiffany will deliver a letter to his wife if he becomes her dancing partner for a competition she has always wanted to enter. After taking the letter, Tiffany brings back a letter for Pat that hints at possible reconciliation. But while Pat has promised his time to Tiffany his father Pat Sr. begins to get frustrated as he is supposed to be the good-luck charm to win the Philadelphia Eagles football games. Pat Sr. loses all the money for his restaurant on a big bet and blames it on Pat spending all of his time with Tiffany instead of being the good-luck charm and messing up the Eagles’ juju. Tiffany asserts that she is really the good luck as during the time she and Pat spent together during Eagles’ game the team only achieved great victories. With the Eagles/Cowboys game on the same night of the dance competition, Pat Sr. makes a parlay with his friend for a double-or-nothing bet or his loss: the Eagles will beat the Cowboys and Pat and Tiffany will score at least a five out of ten at the contest.
The odds: To label Silver Linings Playbook as an offbeat romantic comedy would be a tremendous injustice. Though singular next to its amazing and stiff Best Picture competition, Playbook is singular within the vast realm of movies as stories revolving around regular modern life and family that are fresh and genuine are so few and far between. After crafty work with the intensely personal and fulfilling The Fighter, writer/director David O. Russell has finally begun to zero in on what defines him as a filmmaker with this movie solidifying a sense of personality and idiosyncratic vision. By Russell’s hand all aspects of this movie, all of them fantastic in their own right, melt together to form something wholly, deliciously intimate. With this movie it is the first time since Reds in 1981 that a film has nominees representing in all four acting categories. Despite voters rewarding Argo with the Outstanding Cast title at SAG in defiance to snubbing Affleck for the Director nomination, it could and should be universally agreed that Playbook, with its far stronger ensemble efforts, should have taken that prize. Bradley Cooper is at the top of his game, taking an immensely remunerating step outside of his proverbial box by playing damaged yet sweet and earnest anti-hero Pat, conveying so much emotion with his character’s defining arresting stare, an edge that until now the actor didn’t necessarily seem capable of; his acting prowess is a delightful surprise. Jacki Weaver, though the most understated character in the film, still fills every frame with soulful presence as the wise and grounded mother in the midst of a constant tumult of neurosis. A front-runner to take her category, Jennifer Lawrence continues to show dimensionality as an actress with her turn as the sexy, tempestuous widow Tiffany, making the perfect matching half with Cooper’s Pat to form a beautifully deformed romance. My favorite though by far is Robert DeNiro as the misguided though committed father Pat Sr. in his best performance in years. After a number of movies where he seemed all to willing to mock his own reputation by playing grotesque and mocking iterations of the great and impassioned performances of his early career, DeNiro makes a powerful return to form that sends the quality of this film into the outer limits of virtuosity. In a category of already honored nominees, DeNiro deserves this award for proving to everyone why he is loved and respected. I also like this one to win the adapted screenplay. Russell manages to fill every moment without wasting a single emotion, expounding on the dynamics of stressed relationships whether they be romantic or familial; he covers every base to form such a complete picture of real life and makes it look so easy. But again with voters on the warpath to redeem Affleck for Argo, the Iranian hostage crisis film may walk away with that award too. Its movies like this that make you wish that there could be more than one winner. Unfortunately, reality sucks.