Director David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, at first glance, may seem to be your average, run of the mill chick flick rom-com. This will, undoubtedly, send most of the men out there running, failing to return phone calls and text messages inviting this to see this movie. Well, I’m here to tell you DON’T RUN AWAY! There’s something in Silver Linings Playbook for everyone – including fans of the Philadelphia Eagles. That’s right. Football plays a bit part in this delightful tale about a bipolar man, Pat ( Bradley Cooper) who hits rock bottom and has to learn how to be whole again.
After a plea bargain lands him in a mental hospital for eight months, Pat is struggling to come to terms with a new philosophy to life. ”Excelsior!” he’s become fond of saying, in his own way an attempt to block the negative and make room for the positive. If you work hard and do good, maybe (just maybe) you can have a shot at a silver lining. Maybe.
When he gets home, his mother (Jacki Weaver) and father (Robert DeNiro) struggle to get Pat to take his anti-psychotic medication. They struggle to keep him away from his estranged wife, Nikki, whose put out a 500′ restraining order against him. Pat is confident (to the point of being emotionally painful to the audience) that if he just exercises and focuses he can get better without the meds and his wife will take him back. He runs every day, all day (it seems), with a cut-up bin liner covering his chest to “make him sweat”. It’s on one of these running benders that he strikes up an unlikely friendship with a young widow named Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence). Lawrence, who, Rolling Stone magazine calls “the most talented young actress in America“, is charismatic and scary and intense in the roll of Tiffany. Fans of The Hunger Games may see in Lawrence a strength and ferocity perhaps borrowed, in part, from Katniss. Her performance here is solid and lovable.
Both of these characters are in the midst of long, protracted battles with their own inner demons. Pat, who’s lived his entire life with Bipolar disorder (undiagnosed until after he walks in on his wife having an affair), and Tiffany who’s known around the neighborhood as that loose widow of Tommy’s. But, where they are falling apart on their own trying to make it, somehow, together, they begin to make a strange sort of sense. They find solid ground beneath their feet and they begin to heal. And, as you sit in a darkened theater finding yourself rooting for them, you realize you love them for trying. You love Pat and Tiffany because, despite all of the baggage they’re hauling around with them, they never give up trying to move forward.
Yes, there are a lot of conventional aspects to the film. Yes, it makes the story feel familiar. Yes, yes, yes to all of those things. Silver Linings Playbook is charming and funny regardless. There are also some genuinely laugh-worthy moments peppering the film to lighten the subject matter. There are also noteworthy performances from Chris Tucker and Julia Stiles. Unfortunately, for those of you waiting for the DeNiro of the 70s and 80s, you’ll have to keep looking. DeNiro’s performance as Pat’s 65-year old, unemployed, book making father is no epiphany no matter how heartwarming it is.
Releasing in the US before Thanksgiving, Silver Linings Playbook is everything you’ve come to expect (and look forward to) in the holiday movie lineup and it doesn’t disappoint.
Official site: Silver Linings Playbook