Blending quirkiness with a sprinkle of familiar romantic comedy elements, “Silver Linings Playbook” toes the line between indie darling and crowd-pleasing formula film.
It’s the kind of movie that, in the hands of the wrong people, could have failed miserably.
But that isn’t the case with David O. Russell writing and directing, and a strong cast headlined by more memorable work from Jennifer Lawrence. It’s charming and challenging, even as it starts to conform to the romantic comedy playbook.
Based on a novel by Matthew Quick, “Silver Linings Playbook” features Bradley Cooper as Pat, a Philadelphia teacher who has spent the last eight months in a mental institution after catching his wife in the shower with a co-worker.
Pat moves back in with his mother (Jacki Weaver) and father (Robert DeNiro), determined to get his life back together and reconcile with his wife.
On his road to recovery, Pat meets Tiffany (Lawrence), a recently widowed young woman who has some emotional problems of her own. Tiffany agrees to help Pat try to patch things up with his wife, but only if he agrees to be her partner for a local dance competition.
As the partnership plays out, a bond develops – complicating Pat’s master plan.
Russell has made a career out of exploring the dynamics of dysfunctional relationships, and that familiarity helps strengthen “Silver Linings Playbook.” The relationship between Pat and Tiffany is a big part of the film, but some of the best moments are the dynamics between Pat and his father – an obsessed Eagles fan who may be just as emotionally unstable as his son.
Cooper is really good here in a performance that peels back all of his character’s layers, placing the shortcomings on display.
DeNiro gets to be flashy, while Weaver is more subtle – but just as effective.
Lawrence is the standout, though, a role that should shatter the tomboy image the 22-year-old has built after films like “Winter’s Bone” and “The Hunger Games.” Tiffany is smart, sexy and maybe a little unstable – an enigma that commands your attention whenever she is on the screen.
Lawrence is so good that you can forgive the final act, which feels too safe and predictable. To its credit, the formula ending still works. The audience I saw it with loved it.
By playing it safe, “Silver Linings Playbook” falls just short of being a great film – but it is still very good.
Now in theaters
For fans of James Bond, it is a comeback of sorts with the latest installment, “Skyfall” (A-). After a lackluster “Quantum of Solace,” the franchise gets back on track in a big way, with one of the best entries in the 23-film series.
“Skyfall” begins with Bond (Daniel Craig) chasing a man who has stolen a computer drive that contains the identities of British agents. Bond is accidentally shot by a colleague and presumed dead.
Bond uses the incident as a way to secretly retire.
A few months later, the retirement ends when the head of MI6, M (Judi Dench), becomes the target of a cyber terrorist who is using the classified information and Bond returns to help stop the person behind the attacks.
The investigation leads to a man from M’s past named Silva (Javier Bardem), who will stop at nothing to destroy her.
“Skyfall” is one of the strongest entries in the series, with some very intriguing stuff going on in the screenplay. There is a lot of “Does Bond still have it?” and “Has the agency seen its better days?” moments here – a clash of old school versus new school. It is an appropriate subject to tackle for a franchise that faced similar questions after the last entry.
“Skyfall” should silence those critics, however. Director Sam Mendes gets the film off to a flying start, with perhaps the best opening 20 minutes in any Bond film.
The movie remains at that high level throughout, building to Bardem’s fantastic arrival in the final hour.
Between that opening and Bardem’s first appearance, you get some sizzling cinematography (the Shanghai sequence is as visually impressive as any film in recent memory) and Craig delivering a very good performance as Bond. He has evolved into the role quite well, giving Bond a darker, harder edge while showing a vulnerability that hasn’t been explored before.
You also get Dench adding more depth to M, with a satisfying backstory.
And then there is Bardem. He may not quite match his Oscar-winning work in “No Country for Old Men,” but he still makes for a memorable villain.
It’s just the exclamation point in a film that plays well to its fan base, while managing to do enough to entice those outside that base as well.
“Skyfall” is rated PG-13 for intense violent sequences throughout, some sexuality, language and smoking, and is now playing at the Greenwood Mall 10 and Highland Cinemas in Glasgow.