By the virtue of all of those Oscar nominations and that Golden Globe win for Jennifer Lawrence (#Oscar #soon), Silver Linings’ Playbook is FINALLY getting the wide release it deserves this weekend, despite the fact that it’s been a juggernaut in limited release for month. The movie has already made over $40 million, and it’s bound to make a lot more when all of America finds out what a wonderful movie this is. Discover for yourself on Friday, if you haven’t already.
1. Jennifer Lawrence is dynamite in it.
On top of featuring Bradley Cooper’s best performance yet and a stirring reminder of why DeNiro is one of the most beloved actors of all time, Jennifer Lawrence completely steals every scene she’s in. America fell in love with Jennifer Lawrence this year—whether you want to be her best friend, her life partner or both—and there’s no better example why. Lawrence is one of the freshest talents of her generation and shows an extraordinary range as an actress, whereas some other people her age get by with biting their lip. As the widow who basically stalks Bradley Cooper until he falls in love with her, Lawrence is funny, charming, sexy, angry, heartbreaking and sad—sometimes all in the same scene. Her role could have been a one-note Manic Pixie Dream Girl in the hands of another actress, but Lawrence knows her character deserves better. In Tiffany, she gives us one of the most memorable screen characters of this or any year.
2. It’s surprisingly sex positive for a Hollywood movie.
Hollywood has been on a kick of sex negativity recently (Jack Reacher is a Jezebel attack blog in movie form), but between this and The Sessions, there may be hope for intercourse in Hollywood yet. Throughout the film, Cooper’s Pat repeatedly tries to shame Tiffany for being a “slut”—as she’s had a number of sex partners in the past, both male and female. And rather than feeling bad about who she is and apologizing for her sexual history, Tiffany takes him to task for it. She says, “There’s always going to be a part of me that’s sloppy and dirty, but I like that, with all the other parts of myself. Can you say the same about yourself?” In an industry where being the “promiscuous girl” is synonymous with “one who dies first,” this kind of rhetoric is revolutionary. As a fellow slut, I salute you, Tiffany.
3. It’s also not ableist on issues of mental health.
When watching a movie, I almost just expect them to do a bad job when it comes to the topic of mental health. Whether it’s the “mentally ills people is scary” discourse of horror films (where asylum = haunted house), “mental illness is just an adorable quirk” vibe of Bob Balaban’s Dedication or “LOVE CONQUERS ALL, EVEN SCHIZOPHRENIA” message of A Beautiful Mind, no one ever gets it right. Although I think SLP’s Hollywood ending skews a liiiiittle close to the latter, the movie isn’t about people falling in love. It’s about people struggling for redemption and trying to create their own “silver lining”—hence the title. We see Pat working to get better and be his best self and failing, and the strength and perseverance it takes to tackle bipolar disorder head on. Instead of love fixing it, it’s Pat’s resolve to make his life better—which includes medication. When was the last time that a movie about mental illness didn’t tell us that “drugs are bad” and “you don’t need meds, you can do it”? In a medication negative culture that makes Garden State logic the norm, seeing a movie admit that pills work for some people made me fist pump.
4. It’s the best movie yet from David O. Russell.
If you’re a fan of Russell’s work, Silver Linings’ Playbook will hardly disappoint—despite the fact that it’s his most conventional movie yet. However, we see the same themes of unconventional family dynamics and the struggle to define ourselves that have marked his previous films—notably I Heart Huckabees and the great, underappreciated Flirting With Disaster. Instead of making another screwball comedy, this is closer to a screwball drama—taking the rhythmic sensibilities of Preston Sturges and placing them on one family working through decades of pain and trauma. Like his previous comedies, it’s sharp and witty, but Russell is wearing his heart more plainly on his sleeve than he ever has before and it brings a new depth and sincerity to his work that’s been lacking. In giving us the type of movie Hollywood normally gets wrong, Russell’s never gotten it so right.
5. It’s a crowd-pleaser, in the best possible way.
You know that old cliché about movies having something “for the whole family?” This is one of the few movies I could ever actually say that about, something I could take my little brother to (who is just getting into good movies), my Pops to (because he loves football) or watch on video with my Nana (who is too old to go to the movies much but loves a good rom-com on DVD). It’s not a Southland Tales or Cloud Atlas situation where there is literally so much in the movie that if you wait long enough, there will be something you like. This movie has something for everyone, whether you’re the type of person who would never normally watch an independent film or generally hates happy pseudo-romantic comedies. There’s a reason that this movie won the Audience Award at the Toronto Film Festival last year, over Oscar baitier fare like Argo. It’s the type of movie it’s almost impossible not to like.
6. It’s just motherfucking wonderful.
One of the reasons I like this movie so much is that it actually earns the affection you feel for its characters. Like the great Friday Night Lights—also about football, failure and forgiveness—Silver Linings’ Playbook does such a great job of developing its characters that you don’t just want things to turn out well for them. You need it. You actually care about these people—because of how funny, flawed and human they are and how much their problems and their families remind you of yours. It’s one of the few movies that’s ever helped me through something—that I can honestly say I felt like a better person to have experienced. In a market filled with cheap cash-grabs and soulless sequels, that’s one of the highest compliments I can possibly give.
There’s a reason that everyone I know who has seen this movie not only loved it but wants to talk about it and share it with other people. A friend of mine was supposed to see another movie after Silver Linings’ when she went last week, but she couldn’t. Nothing could possibly top it.
It’s one of the best movies of the year, if not the best.
I gave my official vote to Zero Dark Thirty, but Silver Linings’ Playbook is damn hard to resist. (Call it a close second.) Whether it’s your favorite movie of the year, the past couple years or you’re just checking it off on your Oscar list, it’s hard to think of a better way to spend your $10 on a Friday night. Excelsior, dear moviegoer.