"I don't have a phone. They don't let me make calls."
We're quickly shown that Pat and Tiffany are mangled, mentally. Pat is recently released from an asylum. He was there because he assaulted his wife's fatter, bald lover after he caught the two having sex in the shower; Tiffany is grieving from the recent death of her husband. To cope, she sleeps with every man in her office. The two meet at a mutual friend's dinner party and immediately start to bicker about everything. Literally everything. The next morning, Pat wears a sweatsuit and a garbage bag and goes jogging, soon bumping into Tiffany. An agreement is reached: he will practice and later perform with her at a local dance competition. In turn, Tiffany will pass along a note to Pat's wife Nikki, stating how changed he is, which will, he hopes, ignite a reconciliation.
Jennifer Lawrence (Tiffany) is beautiful, but she's horribly miscast. She's not believable as a widow, and even less so as a crazy person. I think it's the way she swears. Every time she says "fuck" it looks and sounds forced, and she says it a lot. It's truly alarming. It's as if her lips realize she shouldn't be saying that. She's exceptionally talented, but after seeing her in past roles such as WINTER'S BONE, you will laugh at the way Lawrence peppers the screen with her over-the-top antics.
Bradley Cooper is fine, but his character allows for a litany of actors to step in for him if need be. I like Cooper a lot, but he's largely forgettable here. He seemingly earned praise (and an Oscar nomination) for screaming and hitting things, which became boring very quickly. A positive from this is that he's taking the chance and stepping out from the suave persona he's garnered from THE HANGOVER films, THE A-TEAM, and LIMITLESS*.
*At one point in PLAYBOOK, Pat and Tiffany are heading to the local theatre, but before they make it in, they get into another fight (sigh). Up on the marquee though, was I believe the title to another one of Cooper's films, midnight meat train, which is an interesting choice, and a cross universes type of moment. If you're curious, meat train is about a reporter (Cooper) who stumbles upon the presence of a serial killer that preys upon passengers in subway cars. It goes to some really wacky places, and it's gory as hell, but it's more than a decent watch.
Lawrence and Cooper have good chemistry. Which in PLAYBOOK means they're excellent at fighting with one another. Incessantly. We're beaten over the head about how destructive their personalities are, but even crazy people can have lucid conversations, right? If I wanted to hear two people argue non-stop, I could have just stayed home with my wife watched Maury Povich unveil some paternity tests. Not to be left out, Pat also feuds with his parents (an actually decent Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver) over everything from the caliber of Ernest Hemingway to medication, to whether or not Tiffany is bad luck to their hometown Philadelphia Eagles football team.
After THREE KINGS (I'll listen to some arguments about I HEART HUCKABEES) David O. Russell's films have turned to shit. It's clearly evident that he's chasing award circuit accolades, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but his subject matter has shifted from irresistible to extremely tedious. I really don't think he knew what kind of film he wanted to make. Is this a familial drama? A comedy? There are elements of both, but perhaps as a way to appease every single film lover in the world, Russell dabbles also with gambling addiction, karma, the obsessive love of professional sports, a dance competition, topped off with a little racism and promiscuity. The cherry on top is Chris Tucker's character, Danny McDaniels, a fellow attendee of the institution, who somehow escapes his sanitorium multiple times over the course of a few months. Even though he's supposedly locked away for being mentally unstable, Danny continually provides Pat with the most sound advice of any character in the film, right before he's hauled away once more to his padded room. Russell's camera work is also suspect. There is some questionable cutting throughout, not to mention some hugely distracting quick zooms and retreats. The coup de grâce though is the inclusion of one of the most overused devices in film: the romantic embrace 360˚ camera pan.
There are no consequences in the film. Zero. Pat beats the shit out of a bunch of people in the film and nothing severe happens, save for the initial time spent under observation. Pat Sr. gambles away his entire livelihood on the hopes that his emotionally inhibited son can perform a two-minute dance routine. Tiffany, after starting out as the town carousel, builds herself up to something respectable before frivolously and inanely going off the deep end after the first sign of obstruction. Russell had a great opportunity to touch on some important issues; the pieces were all there. Instead, he held firm on the hope that talented and attractive people could carry a silly premise on those merits alone, completely excusing the necessity of cohesive plot development. Silver Linings Playbook made me so apathetic after watching it. Electroshock therapy would have been a welcomed reward.