Performance Profile: Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

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Role: Tiffany Maxwell, an edgy and uneasy young widow
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Silver Linings Playbook is a gem of the romantic drama-comedy genre. With an ace cast and a surefire screenplay and direction from David O. Russell, the film is indeed packed with moments of superb filmmaking. Bradley Cooper is mighty fine in the lead role of Pat Solitano, Jr., the conflicted man who returns after being institutionalized due to a violent meltdown. The rest of the cast are as strong as he is including Robert De Niro as the superstitious father and especially Jacki Weaver as the loving mother.

So where does Jennifer Lawrence enter in the picture?

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Her character enters the film when the plot is already in full speed. She enters in the film in the 25th minute mark following an intriguing briefing to Solitano. I’m not buying the category fraud argument; though the film centers on the plight of Solitano, the film is a romance, and in this case, the film anchors its narrative on the relationship of the couple, so both Solitano and Maxwell are crucial to the story; therefore, both leading.

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Anyway, back to the performance: it’s a beautiful set-up because in a brief amount of time, we are already informed of who she is and who she might be since it’s all in the first impressions level. With the sharp line delivery and all-natural gestures, Lawrence easily glides through her entrance in the film without obstructing the rhythm previously set before she even enters the film.

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As the film progresses, we also get to know her history: her emotional wounds because of the death of her husband, the promiscuous behavior due to depression, the hinted problems within her family, her sister’s superiority to her. These are all points we discover about Tiffany in the brief amount of time (after her first appearance, we only get to see when she runs with Solitano).

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However, she does not want to be judged. In an explosive confrontation scene, she vents her anger to Solitano after a failed dinner with him. It’s a powerfully acted scene; Lawrence releases an emotional force through her emotive face and voice. Her anger, frustration, and feeling of betrayal are all delivered so well.

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There is also the story about her being the messenger to Solitano and his wife. Some might initially read it as Maxwell’s way of trying to dominate Solitano by making him do the dance because of the letter, but upon rewatching and seeing the nuances Lawrence underlines with those scenes, it’s actually an act of desperation on her part (probably hard to understand if you haven’t seen the film). In those small moments of quietness, Lawrence makes use of these small pauses to show the nervousness and the uncertainty that her character goes through.

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But it is not always drama. The film is a romantic comedy too, and she more than lives up to it. She also utilizes her sharp line delivery to highlight the film’s brilliant dark humor. She has some difficult dialogue to handle, and she delivers them with pitch-perfect timing.

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She also has evident chemistry with co-star Bradley Cooper (I don’t mind the age gap, I don’t mind the casting choice). This is the reason why the romance works because both give strong performances, and they have the chemistry that makes the romance works. Both are troubled souls, but they compliment each other – Solitano is the lost one who actually can say what he wants to happen (to be reunited with his wife), while Maxwell buries all her doubts and self-doubts with the tough façade as she serves as his guide towards healing and recovery.

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Upon rewatching, I get to appreciate more how Lawrence raises empathy by not being afraid to show the vulnerable side of Maxwell despite the character’s edgy nature. It’s just too easy to play this character one-note; Tiffany Maxwell is such a badass character that any less talented actress could merely simplify the intricacies of the character. But alas, Lawrence makes the character three-dimensional and complex.

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When she surrenders her emotions, it’s just a blast (the running scene at the end of the film is a great actressing moment).

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Something is holding me back, though. Everything about Silver Linings Playbook is so good and there are just so many things happening around her that I tend to lose my focus on her. That’s not Lawrence’s fault, and I won’t take anything against her; that’s just how brilliant the film is in everything. It’s as if the film is split into two parts: the familial drama and the romantic comedy, and both works so well and compliments each other.

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She’s probably not the best among the cast nor is her character the most important (that would be Cooper’s Solitano), but Lawrence has the most exciting character and is the most memorable part of it because she is electrifying and terrific.

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ACADEMY AWARD FOR BEST ACTRESS NOMINEES, 2009-2015, RANKED:

  1. Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

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This post is part of my part-time stint called Best Actress Project where I rewatch and review all the Academy Award for Best Actress nominees from 2009 to 2015. To read more, click here.

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Film stills courtesy of The Weinstein Company. Protected under Fair Use. No copyright infringement intended. 

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