Silver Linings Playbook

By Christopher Redmond

Mailed on September 17, 2012

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Dear Devin Donegan
Key Video Assist

Dear Devin,

Aside from generic cliches about teamwork, parallels between professional sports and filmmaking aren't abundant. But there is one key similarity - the video assist. This modern piece of technology helps both athletes and actors assess their own performance, and the strategies of their counterparts, instantaneously. It also has the power to nearly end a wildly hot-tempered director's career when leaked online, as I'm sure your boss would like to forget. However, even if nothing viral-worthy happened on-set this time around, the final film is full of performances I'm envious you got to watch over and over again.

Silver Linings Playbook, director_ _David O. Russell's exploration of rehabilitation, is at first a showcase for Bradley Cooper, playing Pat Solitano in the role of his career. Pat's a bipolar ex-teacher trying to make a comeback after an eight-month stint in a mental institution. He always speaks first and thinks later, while obsessessing over a single play he thinks will win him back his ex-wife. The tunnel vision distracts him from Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a formerly promiscuous pill-popper overcoming a tragedy herself and looking for a way to recover.

Tiffany's tactic is to go on the offensive, making rather explicit advances and appeals to Pat. Her approach feels like it's being looped on playback, as she constantly follows his jogging route to manufacture some not-so-subtle run-ins. These moments embrace some of the strongest dynamics of the film - a push and pull relationship that is expertly staged but somehow feels convincingly natural. Even Chris Tucker, who basically is only around for a re-occurring gag throughout the film, gives an impressively restrained performance without ever sacrificing a laugh.

Best of all, Robert DeNiro, as a superstitious football fanatic father, turns in his most well-rounded performance in years. He strikes a skilled balance of concern and care, before his own gambling addiction adds another layer to the drama. I imagine that watching the rushes of his performance, and the whole ensemble cast, helped you immediately realize you were working with a winner.

Beyond well-oiled comedy and believable idiosyncrasies, the film eventually packs an even bigger emotional punch than The Fighter. I was caught off guard by such well-earned misty moment, even if on paper if seems like the oldest play in the book. But swelling music or manipulative edits are nowhere to be found. I probably would have been just as affected by watching the raw footage.

So unlike you, I'll never know if there were only subtle differences between takes or dramatically different interpretations attempted by the actors. But what made the final cut certainly belongs in the big leagues.

Repeatedly yours,


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