Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook is the most oddly enticing rom-com in a long time. Think Billy Wilder filtered through Martin Scorsese, which isn’t a bad way to describe the flip sensibility and kinetic style of writer-director David O. Russell at his best (Three Kings and Flirting with Disaster, not I Heart Huckabees). It’s a movie about crazy people: self-destructive and socially oblivious in various ways to varying degrees, all of them finding a place in the sun through love, family, community, music, and sports. It could have been cringing or callow; instead, it’s pulsating, shrewd, funny, sad, and genuinely romantic. If it turns predictable and a bit sentimental toward the end, Russell pulls it off through his immersive, restless camera movement and his casting. Cooper comes off as, at once, annoying, sympathetic, and thoroughly convincing: a tough combo, and exactly what his character demands. Jennifer Lawrence, who won an Oscar for her performance, is as appealing as any young actress since Deborah Winger or maybe Shirley MacLaine, with greater depth than the former, a harder edge than the latter, and more versatility than either. (See her captivating and very different portrayals in Winter’s Bone and The Hunger Games.) It’s a risky thing for the script to have Cooper say at the end of a film that he’d fallen in love with Lawrence at first sight, but with these two, you believe it; you see it in Lawrence’s entrance, with her over-the-shoulder come-hither confidence. All the performances, from all the actors, are buoyant but real, in only a slightly (and properly) stylized way, especially Robert De Niro who, as Cooper’s dad, doesn’t phone it in for the first time in nearly a decade.

Much of the film was shot hand-held with what seems to be natural lighting, so don’t come looking for eye candy. But both the theatrical 35mm print and this 1080p Blu-ray have a suffused glow. Skintones are fleshy, there’s lots of textured detail, black levels are very black, and you can clearly distinguish dark objects from shadow. The 5.1 surround track is especially vivid, with sounds coming from where the picture suggests they should be coming. (When someone knocked on a door in a doctor’s office, I thought someone was knocking on a door in the next room.) Music, which plays an important role, is dynamic and (when appropriate) lush. The special features are only mildly interesting.

Studio: Anchor Bay, 2012
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio Format: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Length: 122 mins.
MPAA Rating: R
Director: David O. Russell
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro