When N.Y. Times critic Manohla Dargis catches a writerly wave, the result isn’t just stirring but occasionally joyous because it doesn’t capture but re-animates the “it.” For me anyway. Her just-posted Silver Linings Playbook review is such a piece of writing — at par with her brilliant August 2004 review of Michael Mann‘s Collateral:
“A virtuoso of chaos, David O. Russell has supreme command over a movie that regularly feels as if it’s teetering on the edge of hysteria, in respect to the characters and director both. But Mr. Russell doesn’t just choreograph bedlam, he also tames it, and worrying that it might all go kablooey with one shout too many. Like a singer who quavers tauntingly, thrillingly close to going off-key, Mr. Russell never loses control. Watching him pull back from the brink can be a delight.
“As its title announces, Silver Linings Playbook honks, waves and pleads for happiness. Happy endings used to be de rigueur in American movies, and while they often still are, the feelings accompanying them tend to feel as canned as Katherine Heigl’s laughter, maybe because filmmakers no longer buy them, or think that we don’t.
“Russell’s affinity for sight gags and the slap and tickle that makes lovers of combatants derives from his affinity for screwball comedy, a genre that emerged in the 1930s and that he borrows for his own singular purposes. His movies embrace different problems and character types — a strung-out drug addict rather than an alcohol-soaked swell — but like the classics of the form, they have zippy, at times breakneck pacing, rapidly fired zingers and physical comedy that, taken together, reflect the wild unpredictability of the greater world.
“The world in Silver Linings Playbook looks different from the way it does in old screwball comedies, of course, but it too is racked by pain and worry, and there are lost jobs and pensions amid its hiccupping laughter. For all its high-flying zaniness the movie has the sting of life, and its humor feels dredged up from the same dark, boggy place from which Samuel Beckett extracted his yuks.
“Silver Linings Playbook is crammed with people talking and shouting and weeping and also yielding to what are sometimes called boundary issues but which here turn out to be the mad, loving scrambling of people finding and saving one another. These are characters who get in one another’s faces and occasionally punch a loved one right in the kisser. They must go on, they can’t go on, but together they do.”
This also from Hitfix‘s Drew McWeeny:
“For a romantic comedy or dramedy, as I guess you’d call this film, to really work, you can’t just sit silently and watch the mechanics of the thing play out. You have to get personally invested in seeing the two main characters find some peace and love with each other, and Silver Linings Playbook does that better than any film of its type that I can name in the last few years. It might be my favorite romantic film since Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, and I think that’s because this film acknowledges just how hard we make things for ourselves, and just how easy they could be if we got out of our own way sometimes.
Like Flirting With Disaster or Spanking The Monkey or even I Heart Huckabees, this is a film with its own cadence [and] its own particular sense of music, and it is a tremendous success for writer/director David O. Russell. Seems like he got out of his own way here, and the result should be nothing but sunshine for him and for audiences this holiday season.”