Manohla Dargis of the NY Times loves David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, making it a critic’s pick of the week. She says audiences are longing for a happy ending only Russell can deliver:

As its title announces, “Silver Linings Playbook” honks, waves and pleads for happiness. Not long into the story Pat angrily tosses out a copy of “A Farewell to Arms” and rails about Hemingway’s sucker-punch finale. The world, Pat yells — at his parents, the neighbors, us — is hard enough. It’s both comical and somewhat pitiful, but it also feels like an authorial declaration because it dovetails with Mr. Russell’s belief in joyous, transporting cinema. It’s no wonder that Tiffany shows Pat a clip from “Singin’ in the Rain,” that blast of pure euphoria. 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.

Don’t get me wrong, I like a bleak, despairing cry in the dark as much as the next existentially anguished, post-film consumer, but there is a great deal to be said for delivering the bad news on screen with a pratfall. Mr. 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.

And LA Times’ Kenneth Turan loves it as well:

“Silver Linings Playbook” is rich in life’s complications. It will make you laugh, but don’t expect it to fit in any snug genre pigeonhole. Dramatic, emotional, even heartbreaking, as well as wickedly funny, it has the gift of going its own way, a complete success from a singular talent.

That would be the gifted writer-director David O. Russell, whose triumph with “The Fighter” two years ago marked a return to form after a spate of lean years. Russell, whose early successes include “Three Kings” and “Flirting With Disaster,” always brings intensity and passion to the proceedings: We aren’t coolly observing life in his films, we are compelled to live it full-bore along with his characters.

And the Wall Street Journal calls it the “best of the year so far”:

What’s new about this film, which was photographed by Masanobu Takayanagi, is how full and thrillingly free it is: Mr. Russell’s control has become so confident as to seem loose, almost reckless. He has thrown drama, farce and comedy together with piercingly astute perceptions of mental illness, and topped the whole thing off with lyrical romance. One sequence toward the end feels like it was shot on an old-fashioned movie set; it’s a lovely grace note in the best movie so far this year.

It is currently scored at 82 on Metacritic.

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  • As both a movie fan and an aspiring psychiatrist, I’m really looking forward to Silver Linings Playbook. It’s great to see the film get such awesome reviews. It’s only making it harder for me to wait until Wednesday.

  • phantom

    Great, it bounced back and now at a comfortable 84 on Metacritic based on 29 reviews. Now it only has to bring the Box Office and it will be officially right up there with Argo and Lincoln as the certified top players of the race. Next up is ‘Life of Pi’ next week, which will of course have the reviews, but I’m afraid it might be hurt by Box Office in the long run. It’s an expensive film, so it has to deliver big numbers to avoid the damaging flop-status. Then they will start screening for awards consideration the unseen/potential frontrunner quintet Django/LesMis/Zero/Hobbit/Promised Land, so we’ll have finally official early word in a week or so, and from then on, only a few slightlyundertheradar films could provide surprises. Yes, I am looking at you ‘The Impossible’…AND ‘Quartet’…AND ‘Hitchcock’.

    Also, as divisive as Anna Karenina, the other specialty release of this week, seems like based on scores (MC 64, RT 62), I think it’s worth singling out that The New York Times and Washington Post gave it raves, and to a lesser extent, so did Rolling Stone’s Pete Travers. So even though I see like a 10% chance that it will make it into the Best Picture category, that new BP-rule favors EXACTLY this kind of film : edgy, different, divisive with tiny, but passionate Academy-fanbase…and we should take into consideration that BOTH previous Wright/Knightley period romances surprised at the Oscars : ‘Pride & Prejudice’ landed 4 nominations including Best Actress even though it received ZERO love from the oh-so-crucial Guilds and Knightley didn’t even get the ‘homeland’ BAFTA-nod; then ‘Atonement’ did even better when it pulled off important nominations (picture, adapted screenplay, supporting actress) once again WITHOUT Guild-support (no PGA/DGA/WGA/SAG).

    So long story short : the Academy seems to have a thing for the Wright/Knightley combination, even if precursors don’t back them up.

  • Denni

    I’m not gonna be angry at all if Jennifer Lawrence wins Best Actress

  • alexi

    Silver Linings Playbook is probably going to crash Lincoln just like Shakespeare in Love did to Private Ryan. No one can resist a classic romance comedy. Having said that, my No. 1 still goes to Argo.

  • DaneM

    alexi – You think Playbook will cut into Lincoln’s backers? Doesn’t it seem like the type of film that would cut into the backing of perhaps a more modern film like Argo? I would think that a Les Mis or Anna K would be the one to cut into Lincoln’s support.

    Off-topic: Obama screened Lincoln at the White House tonight, inviting cast and crew including Spielberg and Kennedy to attend. USA Today reports Kathleen Kennedy said the President was “incredibly moved”.

    Has a US President ever endorsed an Oscar candidate? Perhaps an article to look into writing, Sasha. 😉

    PS – Wonder if he will screen Zero Dark Thirty…

  • Lorcan

    This looks like a great film to see! Silver Lining’s Playbook, Flight, Lincoln and The Dark Knight Rises are my hopefuls so far for best picture candidates.

  • Tony

    My plan is to go see SLP today. I hope it lives up to the expectations set.

    Meanwhile, the idiots at HuffPo seem to think that because SLP has switched to a platformed release, its Oscar chances will be greatly diminished.

  • Life of Pi’s box office might not hurt it too much as long as it doesn’t bomb hard. Hugo was another very expensive film that didn’t come close to recouping its costs at the domestic box office last year, and it won five Oscars. Maybe Life of Pi’s Best Picture chances will be lost if it doesn’t earn considerably more than Hugo, but it’ll still be in line for a high nomination count, as long as everything else holds up in its favour.

  • evelyn garver

    I would love to see Jennifer Lawrence win Best Actress. However, comparisons of SLP ‘s chance of winning BP to those of SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE are not totally logical. The latter was a period film with multiple nominations and its subject matter was show business. A more apt comparison ,already made by some, is with the 1960 BP winner THE APARTMENT.

  • Nic V

    I’d be more interested too see if President Obama would screen Djano Unchained.

  • Sasha Stone

    The most apt comparison is NOT The Apartment, give me a break, it’s As Good as it Gets.

  • Sasha Stone

    Alexi, Lincoln is NOT Saving Private Ryan and SLP is NOT Shakespeare in Love, which happens to be one of my favorite films of all time. While I’ll admit that it’s possible a movie like SLP can win against a better movie like Lincoln I would compare the scenario more to Rocky vs. Network and All the President’s Men.

  • Sasha Stone

    Great, it bounced back and now at a comfortable 84 on Metacritic based on 29 reviews. Now it only has to bring the Box Office and it will be officially right up there with Argo and Lincoln as the certified top players of the race.

    Phantom, I’m not sure you’ve been following predictions but Silver Linings Playbook has been in the top five of predictions since Toronto. Dave Karger and David Poland still have it to win. So picturing it as an underdog is not apt.

  • DaneM

    As long as Les Mis doesn’t win it all, I’m happy. Even if that means another Weinstein victory. However, with so many legit contenders this year from the major studios, I will be pretty concerned about the Academy’s reputation as basically just a puppet operated by Weinstein.

  • AD

    I don’t know how much value I give to a Dargis’review when she raves BD2.

  • phantom

    Sasha Stone

    I guess I should have emphasized ‘OFFICIALLY’. I was well aware that the film has been a strong BP-contender since Toronto, I simply pointed out that now that the official critical consensus is in, its lock-status has been confirmed. Just like I had Argo in my top5 post-Telluride/Toronto, but I only took it for granted after it delivered the US critical consensus and the Box Office, until then it could have been just another festival lovefest that couldn’t turn into a viable contender because critics and audiences didn’t like it as much as the festivalgoers did.

    We have a few of those this year, too. The Sessions even had the reviews after its stellar Sundance-debut, but the BO is unspectacular, and that makes it hard to consider it seriously for BP, something we all did a few months ago strictly based on early word. Cloud Atlas had one of the very few standing ovations this year in Toronto, yet it failed to wow most critics and audiences and don’t even get me started with Bright Star. So while I do follow and appreciate festival-word, I only fully trust a critical consensus based on not only a few reviews written by festivalgoers.

    This is why I say that even though Silver Linings Playbook now OFFICIALLY has the US-critics, it also needs to deliver BO-numbers to stay a viable threat for BP, it is a contemporary crowdpleaser after all that also enjoys the infamous Weinstein-push, so anything under 50M would be considered a disappointment even if its budget is only 26M. I think it needs at least Sideways/The Descendants (70-90M) numbers to go all the way. For example, if it could only master a 30K PTA or less on its limited opening weekend, I think the film would instantly lose a few points as far as its perception goes. It has to be considered a HIT and even if it picks up business afterwards, a disappointing limited OW could hurt its so far unblemished track record. That probably won’t happen, but I need to see it NOT happening before considering it an actual frontrunner.

    Same goes for Lincoln. The stellar reviews and the Spielberg-brand already guarantee the nominations (picture, director, screenplay, actor, s. actress, s. actor, techinicals etc.) BUT I don’t think it could WIN Best Picture without decent Box Office. It cost 65M, it has to end up with at least 70M in the US to get a pass (I think it has 100M potential), if it fails to deliver that, it will be another Hugo…too great to NOT nominate it, but not succesful enough to give it the big one. This is exactly why I still think that even though Daniel Day-Lewis will win Best Actor in a walk, IF Lincoln disappoints at the Box Office and Les Miserables doesn’t, the more succesful film’s lead could have the edge in the end.

    For the record, I do think Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook will deliver good/great Box Office…but I have to see it to believe it first. It would be great if things like Box Office and profitability wouldn’t be crucial factors when it comes to these awards…but we all know they are.

    P.S. I am not that sure Silver Linings Playbook can muster a Best Director nomination. At this very moment, it will likely happen, we only have 2 locks (Affleck, Spielberg), and 2 strong possibilities (Lee, PTA), but if the unseens deliver, I don’t see David O.Russell knocking out anyone from the Bigelow-Tarantino-Hooper-Jackson quartet…I also wouldn’t count out Nolan OR underestimate Bayona and Haneke just yet.

  • That Wall Street Journal reviewis by Joe Morgenstern, not the first New York Critics Circle member to heap much praise upon Silver Linings Playbook. That and the recent Armond White, that ever Spielberg faithful defender, lukewarm take on Lincoln and that first and major Oscar predictor New York Film Critics award looks to be an interesting one.

    SLP now within 2 on Lincoln at metacritic… yeah, the whole comeback story just keeps ringing true for this movie.

  • Bill

    My, Phantom, that was a mouthful, wasn’t it

  • chumsley

    No, they are not raves, they are hypes.

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