Silver Linings Playbook - *** 1/2 (122 minutes)

Silver Linings Playbook

Wednesday November 7, 2012
If this keeps up, director David O. Russell's filmography will assuredly put him on course for  Academy Lifetime Achievement recognition.  Beginning with 1994's "Spanking the Monkey" and continuing with standout films such as "Flirting With Disaster"(1996), "Three Kings" (1999), "I Heart Huckabees" (2004), and the muti-nominated award winning "The Fighter" (2010), now comes this smart romance comedy that won this year's Toronto Film Festival Audience Award.
The film begins with Pat Solitano, Jr. (the winning Bradley Cooper) living out his 8-month plea-bargained stint in a Baltimore institution for attacking his wife's lover.  It seems Pat has this bipolar disorder but refuses to take his meds-all the while pining and plotting to win back his wife upon his release. 
Forced to relocate to his parents' home after losing his job and house, we soon realize that this apple has fallen very close to his tree.  Dad (Robert De Niro in yet another performance that might land him yet another Oscar nom) has issues of his own-trying to make ends meet as a bookie while in love with his Philadelphia Eagles - at the same time maintaining a tempestuous relationship with Jr.  The glue trying to hold all of this "insanity" together is mom Delores (wonderfully portrayed by Jacki Weaver).

Enter young widow Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) -who just happens to have bipolar issues of her own. She's introduced to Jr. by his friend at a dinner party - whose wife has ties to Pat's ex.  Tiffany has eyes for Pat but complications ensue when he attempts  to have Tiffany intervene by delivering a letter to his ex - necessary because of an outstanding restraining order preventing Pat from having direct contact with his spouse.  How those  complications play out will end up involving everyone when Tiffany puts a condition on the delivery of Pat's letter:  be her partner in a ballroom dancing competition. 

Bradley Cooper, best known for his stints in the sophomoric "The Hangover" comedy franchise, finally gets to display some solid acting chops.  His bipolar interpretation could be the most convincing that I've ever seen on screen.  However, the standout here has to be Jennifer Lawrence. Nominated for Best Actress in 2010 for "Winter's Bone",  she is sure to be recognized again by The Academy.  Her Tiffany is the perfect outrageous foil for Pat, while creating genuine empathy despite her outrageous behavior.  And a special mention goes out to Chris Tucker's hilarious performance as Pat's hospital cell mate, Danny, who always manages to escape the institution and show up at the Solitano household.

Russell co-wrote the script with Matthew Quick, based on his novel, and added a score composed by the always dependable Danny Elfman, to produce a movie that, although somewhat predictable in the end, will definitely have you smiling as you leave the theater. 

Bipolar was never this much fun. 
Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) and Pat (Bradley
Cooper) practicing for the dance contest 


"Chasing Ice" screened at this year's SILVERDOCS Documentary Film Festival and was #5 on my top 10 list.  The film will be shown at the Landmark E Street Theater in Washington D.C. for one week only beginning November 16.  Here was my SILVERDOCS review:

Global warming/climate change has been (excuse the pun) a hot issue ever since 2006's "Inconvenient Truth" brought it to the forefront of the national psyche. Scientists have been debating the validity that man is perilously affecting the planet to such a degree that the fate of millions of folks living next to the ocean will be determined by the rising waters due to melting glaciers. Is this a fact or is it nearly a natural phenomenon that occurs over the course of time? First time director Jeff Orlowski began in 2007 to follow nature photographer James Balog and his Extreme Ice Survey, the most comprehensive and authoritative photographic glacier study ever undertaken. The EIS hopes to document the glacier melting phenomena in order to prove once and for all that the threat to our planet is more than nature at work. The director doubles as cinematographer as he meticulously follows Balog for three years to frigid locales in Greenland, Iceland and Alaska, as Balog sets up stationary cameras hoping to record visual proof of the extent of the retreating glaciers. Meanwhile, early camera failures and Balog's subsequent knee injuries and surgeries threaten to curtail the project. Winner at this year's Sundance Excellence in Cinematography award, the film is stunningly beautiful, while at the same time, horrifying, as it details for the first time the consequences of the images we are witnessing. The doc is due to be released in theaters in the fall and is a must-see on the big screen.