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Silver Linings Playbook Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + UltraViolet Review

Silver Linings Playbook (2012) movie poster Silver Linings Playbook

Theatrical Release: November 16, 2012 / Running Time: 122 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: David O. Russell / Writers: David O. Russell (screenplay); Matthew Quick (novel)

Cast: Bradley Cooper (Pat Solitano, Jr.), Jennifer Lawrence (Tiffany Maxwell), Robert De Niro (Pat Solitano Sr.), Jacki Weaver (Dolores Solitano), Anupam Kher (Dr. Cliff Patel), Chris Tucker (Danny McDaniels), John Ortiz (Ronnie), Shea Whigham (Jake Solitano), Julia Stiles (Veronica), Paul Herman (Randy), Dash Mihok (Officer Keogh), Matthew Russell (Ricky D'Angelo), Cheryl Williams (Tiffany's Mother), Patrick McDade (Tiffany's Father), Brea Bee (Nikki)
Silver Linings Playbook is one of DVDizzy.com's Top 100 Movies of the Half-Decade (2010-2014).Silver Linings Playbook ranks 5th in our list of the Top 100 Movies of the Half-Decade (2010-2014).

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The feature filmography of David O. Russell begins, ordinarily enough, with four films crediting him as both director and a writer over the course of ten years. Then there's a hiatus of six years.
You can chalk some of that up to I Heart Huckabees, the 2004 comedy that broke Russell's streak of increases in theater count and acclaim. Reviews were mixed, the box office performance was soft, and as raw behind-the-scenes videos infamously uploaded to YouTube in 2007 would show, the filmmaking experience was not always the most pleasant.

Still, Russell wasn't done with filmmaking and filmmaking wasn't done with him. In the spring of 2008, he shot Nailed, a $26 million romantic comedy about an uninsured small-town waitress (Jessica Biel) who takes an errant nail in her head and then takes her case to Washington, D.C., where a young senator (Jake Gyllenhaal) offers his support. With two days of shooting left, the production shut down over financing woes. Those final days needed just a single scene, but the pivotal one on which the entire film (and its title) hedges. Five years later, Nailed remains unfinished and quite likely to never see the light of day.

Back-to-back sour experiences might have turned Russell off from his chosen profession, but instead they would spark a career renewal. In the summer of 2009, Russell shot The Fighter, a feature he directed but did not write. His first new film released in six years, it drew rave reviews, seven Academy Award nominations including Best Picture and Director, two Oscar wins for supporting cast members, and easily the warmest public reception of Russell's career. Russell was back and better than ever and the good vibes of that flavorful family drama have carried over to his next film, the thematically kindred Silver Linings Playbook.

Pat Solitano Sr. (Robert De Niro) welcomes his son (Bradley Cooper) home after a stay in a psychiatric institution.

This 2012 romantic comedy-drama gives Russell another writing credit, his first adaptive one. Based on the 2008 debut novel of Matthew Quick, Silver Linings tells a story of wounded people, mental illness, family strain, and passionate NFL fandom.

The film opens with Pat Solitano, Jr. (Bradley Cooper) battling his demons in a Baltimore psychiatric facility. Within her right but against medical advice, Pat's mother Dolores (Jacki Weaver) pulls him out of the institution to come back to his Philadelphia home to live with her and Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro), a fanatical, highly superstitious Philadelphia Eagles fan who, having recently lost his job, now relies on a home bookmaking business.

Meanwhile, Pat Jr., recently diagnosed as bipolar with mood swings, is determined to get his life in order in an effort to win back his estranged wife Nikki, who was at the center of the incident that called his sanity into question. He's lost weight, starts reading all the books on the syllabus of Nikki's high school English students, and, adopting the word "Excelsior" as his mantra, tries to be positive and see the silver linings to situations. At the same time, he's resisting the medication he is required to take and flirts with violating the restraining order Nikki has against him.

While dining with a friend's family, Pat meets Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence), a young, recent widow with her own history of outbursts and questionable decisions. Pat and Tiffany start running into each other with increasing frequency and on a memorable Halloween night diner outing that Pat insists is not a date, Tiffany volunteers to pass a letter from him to Nikki. In exchange for this illegal action, Tiffany asks that Pat be her partner in an upcoming dance competition, an offer he reluctantly agrees to.

As part of an effort to get his life in order, Pat Jr. (Bradley Cooper) takes to running around his Philadelphia neighborhood in a garbage bag. Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence) jogs a similar route on a similar schedule, although not here.

Russell surprised me when his generically titled boxing movie proved to be so much more than expected. Sure, there was the inspiring true story of a welterweight who had some success, but that aspect isn't what has stayed with me from that film as much as the colorful, often funny, and haunting portrait of a large, working class Massachusetts family.
Scenes of ringside action did not contribute much to the many powerful images of that film, like the troubled brother Dicky Eklund (played by Christian Bale) jumping out of a crack house window to dodge his mother and later making amends while getting dirtied by the blue icing of an unwanted cake.

Making The Fighter now seems like the perfect training for helming Silver Linings, another poignant and beautiful portrayal of seeking out redemption in the wake of life's challenging messes. Once again, Russell puts fascinating, flawed characters on display, which the perfectly cast and uniformly excellent actors build into a close-knit universe to which we have boundless access. The film stealthily manages to depict mental illness without exploitation. There is no effort to glamorize or demonize these personalities or to exaggerate their struggles. Pat and Tiffany are likable people you want to overcome the tough hands they've been dealt and worsened. It helps that the two aren't in a sentimental, motivational drama or even something you instantly (if ever) recognize as a romantic comedy. They're in a film that feels like real life, one defined by the small things that matter to them.

For Pat Jr., all that matters is winning back Nikki, something everyone silently seems to believe is a losing effort. Tiffany's attentions are fixed on the upcoming competition, feeding her one productive outlet at the small private dance studio she has converted from her parents' garage. For Pat Sr., all that matters is that the Eagles win, something his OCD tendencies render dependent on the TV remotes' angles and the affiliations of those watching the game in his house.

Russell's storytelling benefits so much from relatable details, from the particulars of fall 2008's Philadelphia sporting events to the dynamics of an Italian-American East Coast family with their rituals of "crabby snacks and homemades." The director also shows amazing comic instincts, drawing laughs out of as many small things (an out-of-focus gesture, a waitress' funny delivery) as big things (like a rare performance by Chris Tucker and a middle-of-the-night condemnation of Ernest Hemingway's Farewell to Arms). The humor works perfectly in tandem with the film's heart and humanity, warming us to all of the characters and making us feel like part of their close circle. The film even avoids the temptation to go for a cheesy happy ending, earning its wholly fulfilling resolution with lowered expectations and more believable touches and complications.

At 22, Jennifer Lawrence became the second youngest Best Actress winner in Oscar history for her performance as widow/dancer Tiffany Maxwell.

Picking up just about every Academy Award nomination a contemporary live-action comedy can (even film editing!), Silver Linings' impressive eight Oscar nods tied it with Les Misιrables for third place among 2012 output, trailing only the prestige period drama Lincoln and technical extravaganza Life of Pi. Sadly, Silver Linings only won one of those bids, with Jennifer Lawrence making for a worthy Best Actress and establishing her career as the brightest of any in her profession. The film was also a considerable commercial triumph, its gradual rollout rewarded with a $131.4 million and counting domestic gross, the third highest in The Weinstein Company's shaky eight-year history.

The film's success and near-universal acclaim cements Russell as one of Hollywood's elite filmmakers and raises expectations for his 2013 release, the 1970s-set thriller American Hustle, which reunites the director with Cooper, Lawrence, De Niro, and The Fighter's Bale and Amy Adams. We will see if the combination of Russell and that exciting, talented cast can earn the even bigger accolades won by Argo. Beyond the comparison-inviting subject matter, Sony's assignment of a Christmas Day opening suggests that such achievement is a genuine possibility.

In the meantime, you now can and should enjoy Silver Linings Playbook on DVD and in the two-disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + UltraViolet combo pack reviewed here.

Silver Linings Playbook Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + UltraViolet combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray and DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (English); DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Both: Dolby Digital 5.1 (French)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Extras Subtitled in English; Not Closed Captioned
Release Date: April 30, 2013
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Blue Keepcase
Also available as standalone DVD ($29.98 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Silver Linings Playbook looks fine on Blu-ray. The 2.40:1 transfer doesn't quite have the sharpness and clarity of today's best-looking presentations, but there is nothing you would cite as troubling about the picture. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio is also good, though the recordings don't always appear to be of the highest quality. Though the results could have been a tad nicer, most will be perfectly pleased with this.

Dr. Patel (Anupam Kher) teaches Pat Jr. about the Ganesha in this deleted scene set outside Lincoln Financial Field. David O. Russell wears a DeSean Jackson jersey like his leading man, as he directs "The Movie That Became a Movement."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The extras, which are in HD on Blu-ray unless otherwise noted, begin with a hearty collection of seventeen deleted scenes (26:14).
Though there's nothing too momentous (more rehearsing, more tailgating, an alternate ending showing more Sunday family life), these characters are a joy to spend any more time with.

As the title suggests, "Silver Linings Playbook: The Movie That Became a Movement" (28:37) is a little more substantial than the typical making-of featurette. It collects remarks from all relevant parties (including author Matthew Quick) plus TV's Dr. Oz, bipolar former Rhode Island representative Patrick Kennedy, and other psychology experts. Celebrating the treatment of mental health issues, the cast, and the dance content, this good documentary sheds light on the film's five-year journey to be made, with Russell tracing the project back to the late Sydney Pollack. Marring it slightly: the audio is slightly but noticeably out of sync.

The sometimes reticent Robert De Niro opens up a little in "Q & A Highlights." Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence hone their dancing skills in a brief montage of low-quality rehearsal footage.

Next, "Q & A Highlights" (27:00) gathers thoughtful reflections from David O. Russell, producer Bruce Cohen, editor Jay Cassidy, composer Danny Elfman, and actors Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, and Paul Herman from different screening panel sessions. It's a smart idea to combine the potentially flabby presentations into one taut, compact piece.

"Dance Rehearsal" (1:22) shares with us some crude footage of Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence working on their dancing in pre-production.

"Learn to Dance Like Pat & Tiffany" (11:45) has choreographer Mandy Moore (no, not the Mandy Moore) and two dancers taking us through the moves of the couple's competitive performance. I doubt you'll come away ready to recreate it, but at least it gives us insight into the logic behind the climactic exhibition while dissecting its components.

Finally, "Going Steadicam with Bradley Cooper" (0:56, SD) give us cell phone video of Cooper himself operating a Steadicam on Jennifer Lawrence.

Choreographer Mandy Moore and two dancers break down some moves in "Learn to Dance Like Pat & Tiffany." Chris Tucker pops up in the DVD's main menu montage.

The combo pack's DVD, the same one sold on its own, and includes all the deleted scenes, "The Movie That Became a Movement", and the short "Dance Rehearsal" and "Steadicam" clips.
As the DVD is filled close to capacity, I'm convinced that the absence of the "Q & A Highlights" and "Learn to Dance" doesn't seem designed to spite DVD customers or give the illusion of added value to the Blu-ray, as those aren't moves we ordinarily see in the Weinstein/Anchor Bay playbook.

The discs open with trailers for Django Unchained, The Master, and Fox's A Late Quartet, with a random ad for Georgina Chapman of Marchesa's Pearl line of dresses for JC Penney among them. Silver's own trailer is regrettably absent.

The menu uses the poster/cover's playbook imagery to house listings beneath a standard scored montage. Unfortunately, the Blu-ray neither supports bookmarks, nor resumes playback.

Inside the unslipcovered blue keepcase, we find the insert with your unique codes and directions for both the digital copy and UltraViolet downloads included with your purchase. There's also a random coupon for $3 off the Seal Team Six Blu-ray or DVD.

Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence) and Pat Solitano Jr. (Bradley Cooper) share a smile while rehearsing their dance routine.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

As one of last year's best, most enjoyable, and most rewatchable films, Silver Linings Playbook would be easy to recommend in the most basic of platters. Gladly, it gets much more than that in a Blu-ray combo pack that provides fine picture and sound, a solid 95 minutes of bonus features, and all the versatility you could want. Set aside a couple centimeters of shelf space, because this set belongs in every home video collection.

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Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + UltraViolet / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
New: Strictly Ballroom • The Details • Not Fade Away • Funny Girl • The Squid and the Whale & Running with Scissors
Directed by David O. Russell: The Fighter | Best Actress Oscar Winners: Black Swan • Annie Hall • Mary Poppins
2012 Oscar Winners: Argo • Lincoln • Zero Dark Thirty | Nominees: Beasts of the Southern Wild • The Impossible • Flight • The Master
Bradley Cooper: The Words • The Hangover • The Hangover Part II • He's Just Not That Into You • Case 39
Jennifer Lawrence: The Hunger Games • Winter's Bone • Like Crazy • X-Men: First Class • The Beaver
Robert De Niro: Everybody's Fine • Marvin's Room • Taxi Driver • The Godfather Part II • Stone • Jackie Brown
Jacki Weaver: Animal Kingdom | Chris Tucker: Rush Hour 3 | Julia Stiles: 10 Things I Hate About You • The Cry of the Owl

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Reviewed May 1, 2013.



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