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David O. Russell’s screen adaptation of Matthew Quick’s debut novel, “Silver Linings Playbook,” is a stunning example of guile and deception. Normally, the screenwriter’s trick is to woo an audience into the world of a character-driven film with comedy and romance, which then, in serious films, turns serious and sour. There’s nothing at all normal about Russell’s approach. His feel-bad-feel-good screenplay takes us on a circuitous route from madness and violence to romance and fantasy. The start of Russell’s film is dark and dangerous, and painfully real. By the film’s conclusion, we are doubled over with laughter and throat-lumped by the ending we all wanted but never imagined we would get. The range of emotion on-screen is gigantic and the viewer’s emotional journey is a match. Russell creates career-defining screen roles for Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, who respond with masterful performances, as do Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver and John Ortiz in supporting roles. It’s all on the page in Russell’s script: a fanciful blend of styles, and, ultimately, of wit and of wisdom. Magical.
Israel Horovitz is the author of several plays including “Park Your Car in Harvard Yard” and “The Indian Wants the Bronx.”