Movie Review - 'Silver Linings Playbook' And 'Anna Karenina' - Oscar-Bait Adaptations Cinematic adaptations of beloved literary tales are nothing new. Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina is no stranger to the adaptation process, and newcomer Silver Linings Playbook enters the romantic comedy game. NPR critic Bob Mondello has his review of both.
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'Tis The Season For Oscar-Bait Adaptations

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'Tis The Season For Oscar-Bait Adaptations



'Tis The Season For Oscar-Bait Adaptations

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In movie theaters in select cities today, two adaptations of novels arrive, the romantic tragedy "Anna Karenina" and the romantic comedy "Silver Linings Playbook." Both are generating Oscar buzz, and both take liberties with their source material, as we hear from our critic Bob Mondello.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: In the novel "Silver Linings Playbook," Pat, a bipolar guy who's sprung by his mom from a mental institution before he's quite ready, has a theory that his life is a movie produced by God. In David O. Russell's film, God gets left out of the mix. But Pat, played by Bradley Cooper, still has plenty of theories.


BRADLEY COOPER: (As Pat) This is what I believe to be true. You have to do everything you can, you have to work your hardest. If you stay positive you have a shot at a silver lining.

MONDELLO: Ah, but silver linings come with clouds. Pat is living with his folks because his wife got a restraining order against him.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (As character) (Unintelligible).

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (As character) The court said yes.

MONDELLO: He's a chip off the old block because his dad is obsessive-compulsive, especially when it comes to the Philadelphia Eagles.


ROBERT DI NIRO: (As character) I thought you said you had it together, you were solid.

COOPER: (As Pat) I am solid. I was solid at the game.

MONDELLO: And against the advice of his therapist, Pat is not taking his medication, a point that provides a conversation starter when he meets Tiffany, a recent widow who's just as fragile and formerly medicated as he is.


COOPER: (As Pat) Do you ever take klonopin?

JENNIFER LAWRENCE: (As Tiffany) Klonopin, yeah.

COOPER: (As Pat) (Unintelligible). What day is it?


MONDELLO: Played by Jennifer Lawrence, Tiffany is working through her own issues by prepping for a dance competition, one that she'll try to rope Pat into, but if that makes her sound like she's got her act together, in many respects she makes Pat seem downright stable.


COOPER: (As Pat) How did you lose your job?

LAWRENCE: (As Tiffany) By having sex with everybody in the office.

COOPER: (As Pat) Everybody?

LAWRENCE: (As Tiffany) I was very depressed after Tommy died. It was a lot of people.

COOPER: (As Pat) Well, you don't have to tell me about it.

LAWRENCE: (As Tiffany) Thanks.

COOPER: (As Pat) How many were there?

LAWRENCE: (As Tiffany) Eleven.

COOPER: (As Pat) Wow.

LAWRENCE: (As Tiffany) I know.

COOPER: (As Pat) I'm not going to talk about it anymore.

LAWRENCE: (As Tiffany) OK.

COOPER: (As Pat) Can I ask you one more question?

MONDELLO: Writer-director David O. Russell is just the guy to bring out and then calm the manic dysfunction in these folks. That's kind of been his thing in everything from "I Heart Huckabees" to last year's "The Fighter." In taking "Silver Linings Playbook" from page to screen, Russell is embracing some pretty conventional notions about the curative power of family and friends, but he makes that embrace bracing with frenetic editing that puts you inside the heads of his troubled leads, performances that are this film's chief silver lining, and a dance sequence that allows him a niftily bipolar Cinderella joke just before the climax.

There's a ball scene in Leo Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina," too, one that has figured in more than 20 movie adaptations, so you may think you know it...



AARON TAYLOR-JOHNSON: (As Count Vronsky) Dance with me.

MONDELLO: But it's rarely been quite this theatrical.



KEIRA KNIGHTLEY: (As Anna) I'm not used to being spoken to like that by a man I met once at a railway station.

TAYLOR-JOHNSON: (As Count Vronsky) I dare say that if I'm not to dance with you, then (unintelligible).

MONDELLO: This operetta, lush and often specifically on stage, director Joe Wright's "Anna Karenina" is built around the premise that life for 19th-century Russian aristocrats was a kind of performance. They looked to Paris for fashion, to the rest of Europe for sophistication; they played their parts in public.

So the director places them in a literal theater, sometimes with an actual audience out front. Keira Knightley's Anna argues with husband Jude Law in front of what is clearly a set...


JUDE LAW: (As character) (Unintelligible) attracted attention tonight.

KNIGHTLEY: (As Anna) You don't like it when I don't talk to people, you don't like it when I do.

LAW: (As character) (Unintelligible)...

MONDELLO: But when she turns her back on this artificial society and steps into the wings, snow is falling, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson's Vronsky is there.



TAYLOR-JOHNSON: (As Vronsky) Can I be of service to you?

KNIGHTLEY: (As Anna) Why are you leaving Moscow?

TAYLOR-JOHNSON: (As Vronsky) What else can I do? I have to be where you are.

KNIGHTLEY: (As Anna) Stop, that's enough. This is wrong.

TAYLOR-JOHNSON: (As Vronsky) It makes no difference.

KNIGHTLEY: (As Anna) You have no right.

TAYLOR-JOHNSON: (As Vronsky) It makes no difference.

MONDELLO: Performances are grand and oversized, with Law's frustrated husband the still center around whom adultery swirls. Everyone but Law moves in elegant, choreographed patterns as stage doors open out onto wheat fields, fireworks explode right through the theater's domed roof, and racing horses gallop across the proscenium arch.

Nothing about this movie is tidy or realistic: it's sweeping and theatrical to suit the story's sweeping, theatrical emotions. And if the inventive imagery the director has come up with distances you a bit from those emotions, he's still made Anna Karenina, in which there's no silver lining for anyone, a wild, gorgeous and flamboyant ride. I'm Bob Mondello.



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