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The Best of 2012: 'Silver Linings Playbook'

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Silver Linings Playbook (film)

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One of the best adapted screenplays of 2012 most certainly has to go to David O. Russell, director of Silver Linings Playbook. In spite of the title of the book (by author Matthew Quick) that this film is loosely based, its story is actually not about sports. The well known Philadelphia Eagles may be part of the characters' ongoing chaos, but the film is really about the craziness enveloping these characters and their solutions to said craziness. From a screenwriting perspective, it is very difficult to develop an entire family of characters and their friends. Through this film's realistic take on almost sitcom humor and the extremely natural performances of a cast that includes Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence (in her Oscar winning role for Best Actress), Robert De Niro (a nomination for Best Supporting Actor), Jacki Weaver, Julia Stiles, Anupam Kher, John Ortiz and Chris Tucker, this became one of the best comedies of the year as well as the one of the best love stories about admitting that you are in love.

Bradley Cooper plays Pat, a man recently released from a Baltimore mental hospital after a violent retaliation against a man sleeping with Pat's wife. Literally going back to square one by living with his parents (De Niro and Weaver), Pat endeavers on a game plan to get his life back on track. Only problem is that Pat has a restraining order placed against him by his own wife-- the woman Pat wants desperately back. This obsession will not leave Pat's mind; trapping him within love. In the meantime, Pat Sr. wants to spend more quality time with his son. As for what Patrizio wants, he wants his son to encourage a set of good vibes for the Eagles by being there with him watching games. Patrizio's superstitions are no where as damaging as Pat's seek for vindication in the eyes of his wife and yet both are insensitive to each other's plight. On the other side of the local fence is Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), an intense, outspoken crass girl recovering from the accidental death of her husband. While Pat sets his sights on finding some way to communicate with his wife, Tiffany finds very amusing ways to catch his attention. Russell's sense of humor is truly on target here by having Tiffany surprise Pat behind neighborhood trees while he is jogging. He eventually expects her behind the same tree everytime he runs, but she still manages to surprise him anyway when he is looking away. Pat finally realizes that a friendship with Tiffany may be emotionally beneficial toward his bipolar anxieties, so he implores her to be the middlewoman to send a letter to his wife who happens to be a friend of Tiffany's sister (Stiles). In return, Pat must be Tiffany's dance partner for an upcoming competition that happens to occur on the same night of an Eagles game. Let the conflict of interest bring a rain of chaos! Such chaos between potentially romantic characters like Pat and Tiffany is brought to the screen with wonderful snap, crackle, pop of David O. Russell's script with such hilarious examples as: Pat: “You have poor social skills. You have a problem.” Tiffany: “I have a problem? You say more inappropriate things than appropriate things.” Pat: “How old are you?” Tiffany: “Old enough to have a marriage end and not wind up in a mental hospital.” The film is beautifully decorated with simple, but effectively funny dialogue as this. Sometimes the dialogue is not about anything important and yet it still sets the stage for unconventional chemistry for characters: “Guess what it is!” “Oh, it's a television.” “It's a computer screen.” “Keep going.” “It's a brick oven.” “It's a drawer at a morgue where they pull out dead bodies and shoot them with formaldehyde.” “Where would the body go though?” “It's a joke!” “It's a fireplace...” “In the middle of the wall?” and then continues with, “Of all the rooms that there are iPod ports at, I'm happy you brought us into the bathroom.” “I can play music for the baby in any room.” “Can you play 'Ride the Lightning' by Metallica?...” David O. Russell's film is a 2 hour excursion chock full of crazy talk like so.

Without making it too obvious or predictable, Playbook is definitely love story, but an antagonistic one where characters try to avoid the obvious or the predictable. Pat is compeletly convinced he will save his marriage while at the same time trying to avoid Tiffany's advances. She wants to help Pat, but is incredibly careful in her motives. This makes the film a one-of-a-kind type of a romantic comedy-- our potential couple is not sure whether they want love or not. Rather cleverly, the film does not delude itself with busying the script with other affairs and unnecessary relationship woes. Pat and Tiffany are the only characters in real trouble with their lives while Patrizio and his wife are still living in their happily ever after while Julia Stiles and John Ortiz's character may be having some rough patches (mostly coming from just Ortiz who whispers to Pat of his hilarious venting tactic by listening to Megadeth in his garage)-- this is not a distraction from the story's lead duo. Pat has an objective to make himself happy again while Tiffany has her objective to help Pat. That statement alone should be clear as to who has the better motive in mind. The director's niche for reality-based pictures worked tremendously well for his frantically silly photoplay. It reminds us all that reality can be a very funny thing.

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