For years, Bradley Cooper has always had the feel of an actor that was capable of so much more than the roles he was choosing. Perhaps it was all part of his master plan to break into Hollywood (probably), who’s to know? If Limitless was the first time he was able to flex his dramatic muscles, Silver Linings Playbook would seem like a natural progression if it weren’t for the fact that he has evolved even further than anyone could have predicted between one role to the next. In short, he is outstanding and will more than likely secure his first Academy Award nomination for his fantastic turn as Pat Solatano.

One of the reasons for Cooper’s breakthrough is undeniably the direction of David O. Russell. Apart from the famous I ♥ Huckabees incident, Russell has always been an actor’s director. The most recent testament to this being the multi award-winning The Fighter, which earned Christian Bale his first taste of Oscar glory. He’s at it again in Silver Linings Playbook, a beautiful film about self-drive that will no doubt garner nominations across the board for Cooper, Robert de Niro and perhaps most promisingly, Jennifer Lawrence.

Though Cooper gives a career performance as the bipolar Solatano, Lawrence is astonishing as Tiffany, the yang to his ying. Troubled herself, using her sexuality to mask her grief, Tiffany is a layered if uneven character that deserves to be recognised in a film about what it means to be uneven. What Lawrence delivers so well is the mask. Though as honest as she can be, Tiffany is forever holding back more than can ever be known to the audience. In Lawrence’s performance, there is a unique believability in the way that she conducts herself; a believability that can only be demonstrated by a first-class actor who has it within themselves to fully immerse in the skin of a character in order to achieve the ultimate outcome. That outcome being the successful deconstruction of what could just as easily have been an extremely straightforward character if not in the hands of one of the new generation’s most capable actresses.

Why is Silver Linings Playbook raking in the top prizes at festivals? It’s simple. It’s a warm, honest film that doesn’t consider depression to be the only emotion worth evoking. It takes two very realistic (and for want of a better word, normal) instances of mental illness and adds humour and romance. What it doesn’t possess is the constant indie need to shove the metal illness theme in your face, and that is where Silver Linings Playbook succeeds the most. Rather a story of people than of unfortunate circumstance, the difficulties faced by the two troubled leads are dealt with through friendship, affection and mutual respect. As a viewer, you can predictably sympathise with the parties involved, but considerably more so because you come to genuinely care for the characters as the film progresses. This care, this attachment to the characters is all down to the fact that Russell has provided a delectable screenplay that pays equal attention to every character, no matter how minor.

This wonderful collection of words and people is anchored by Robert de Niro who is perfectly cast as Pat’s father, his finest work in over a decade. In Playbook he makes it look easy in a way that only a veteran can, setting a lasting example for his two young leads. Hell, even Chris Tucker is good in this film. That should, in the least, convince you to go see it. More charming than you would probably imagine, and more accomplished than you could ever expect from a David O. Russell romantic comedy, the sum of all things is one of the finest pictures of the year on all fronts.


Matthew Smith
Matthew Smith

A bi-product of both the USA and the UK, Matthew has been a film-obsessive since the summer of 1993. He claims that in 2009, he saw a total of 109 films at the cinema. Since 2009, he has been writing for NME film critic Owen Nicholls, and after exploring the intricacies of film analysis, began a BA Hons in Film and Moving Image Production in 2011 at the ripe old age of 25. His favourite film is The Big Lebowski, and his favourite director is Alexander Payne.