Silver Linings Playbook – Review
January 8, 2013 4 Comments
Film Review by FilmFellaHenry
Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) is a recovering manic depressive intent on winning the heart of his estranged wife Nikki (Brea Bee) in David O. Russell’s new rom-com / drama. Freshly discharged from a mental hospital, Pat takes up residence with doting mother Dolores (Jacki Weaver) and sports mad father Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro), with a plan to reform his life. But an encounter with the troubled Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) leads him to question his idealistic visions of the future and his role within his family.
Silver Linings Playbook was one of those films where I was sold purely on the director’s name: rom-coms aren’t generally my thing, but judging by O. Russell’s impressive I Heart Huckabees and The Fighter I figured it was a fairly safe bet. And for once, I was on the money.
I describe Silver Linings Playbook as a rom-com only tentatively, as it is arguably far more of a drama than anything else. Starting on a fairly serious footing, we are introduced to Pat Solitano, who despite his hospital discharge, is clearly still not right in the head. Once back home with his parents, the signs of crazy quickly emerge, from heated arguments with his dad, to delusional plans for the future, culminating in endless jogs around the neighbourhood wearing an outfit made of bin bags. As his wife’s previous affair is revealed to be the catalyst for Pat’s hospitalisation, I’ll admit to a certain despair that I was in for a depressing 2 hours.
And this is where O. Russell’s skill really comes to the fore, by displaying an astute understanding of balance. Just when you think things are getting far too gloomy, enter Tiffany, an awkward young widower and the perfect recipient for Pat’s social maladjustment. Instantly the mood lightens as their off-beat and bizarre relationship simultaneously provides a realistic chance of happiness for the protagonist while showcasing some pretty damn funny dialogue. Crucially, this balance is maintained throughout the film: while the serious subtext of two people struggling with mental illnesses is explored, it is done in such a quirky, light hearted way that Silver Linings Playbook never feels preachy or heavy going. Even the romance is spooned out in regulated doses, avoiding the usual saccharine vomit prompt in favour of a much more realistic yet still heart warming approach to love. In this regard, I couldn’t help but draw parallels to Away We Go, another rom-com that managed to succeed with me where so many other love stories have failed. It’s all about the balance.
But I won’t give David O, Russell all the credit. Having only known Bradley Cooper from The A-Team and The Hangover films, I wasn’t expecting the decent display he painstakingly delivers here. For obvious reasons, characters with a mental illness are gold dust to actors that want critical recognition, so much so that there is a tendency to overblown performances with varying success.
Thankfully, Cooper takes a more restrained approach, giving life to a character that I actually could believe has bipolar disorder. Similarly, Jennifer Lawrence avoids going Girl Interrupted with her own mental hang ups, preferring a far calmer and subsequently more amusing perspective instead of the usual stereotypical histrionics. Even De Niro, whose comedy work I’ve never really rated, provides an essential comedic contribution that parallels his son’s afflictions by way of an OCD complex. And finally, mention has to be made of Danny Elfman’s delightfully refreshing score: while not staggeringly original, it is enough of a departure from his tried and tested mock-gothic fairytale orchestrations that have become more than a little trite.
From a negative standpoint Silver Linings Playbook is ultimately predictable and falls short of any grand or original statements. But then I guess it doesn’t have to: as it is, the film manages to capture an interesting and deep character relationship, sustain a serious narrative without becoming a drudge and work in enough jokes to keep the audience laughing. And it also seems to be gender neutral, pleasing both men and women alike (for anyone who’s ever had to sit through 2hrs of soul destroying toss at the hands of their other half, you’ll understand how important a mutually agreeable film can be).
In conclusion, I strongly recommend Silver Linings Playbook as a solid, entertaining experience, that will leave you smiling. Even if you’re then forced to watch Twilight, because drunken promises are still binding, apparently.