David O. Russell’s first film, Spanking the Monkey (1994), is not a crowd pleaser. Mediocre as it is, it’s tougher than that. His new picture, Silver Linings Playbook (2012) is a crowd pleaser—and it isn’t mediocre. It’s a seriocomic piece that manages to be a lot of fun. Nimble with his camera, Russell adapts a novel unknown to me for what seems like a good adaptation to the silver screen (i.e. the movie stands on its own).
The story is that of a man (Bradley Cooper) just out of a mental hospital and his hopes of restoring his subverted marriage. Presently he befriends a chilly, emotionally disturbed young widow (Jennifer Lawrence) who affects his life in curious ways. The value of marriage, despite the imperfections of marriages, is a theme in Playbook. So is the understandable fight, undertaken by some individuals, to turn away from darkness, from “negativity” (oh, that word!), and concentrate on light—as well as possible.
Funny and buoyant, what we have here is a contemporary Preston Sturges movie, only more touching. Granted, it can be corny too, but I had no trouble seeing a silver overlay in Silver Linings Playbook, however un-tough it may be.