Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) is a man with problems. He has just been released from an institution, where he has spent eight months after beating the man who was sleeping with his wife half to death. He has been diagnosed with severe bi-polar disorder and his wedding song is a major trigger causing out of control episodes. Back home, he has move in with his parents and re-adjust to his OCD father who needs him in the house so the Philadelphia Eagles will win. Pat has to struggle daily to keep his anger in check so he’s not sent back to the institution. But Pat is a man with a strong will, who believes that if he stays positive he can get his wife back, get his life back and find the hidden silver lining to these very large clouds – despite the restraining order. Welcome to the world of David O. Russell’s latest movie, Silver Linings Playbook.
Thrown into this combustible mix is another element “ Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a young widow with her own mental health problems (she and Pat bond over a discussion of the side effects of various drugs). But these two spiky characters whose conversation is notable for its lack of conformity to social niceties could be good for one another -Tiffany might be able to help Pat get a letter to his wife, but she wants his help with something in return¦
Silver Linings Playbook performs a careful balancing act, between comedy and drama, weighing the comedic potential of the dysfunctional characters it presents against the need to be respectful of mental health problems that affect millions. On this score, it mostly succeeds, creating a bittersweet mood punctuated by the occasional laugh.
Credit must go to the two leads, without whose nuanced performances, this balancing act couldn’t have been achieved. Bradley Cooper shows that he is more than just a pretty face, while Jennifer Lawrence’s reputation just seems to grow with every film. Perhaps credit should go to Russell for this too “ his last movie, The Fighter took the Oscars for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress, and awards could be on the cards again, so perhaps he has the knack for getting the best out of his cast. There is further evidence of this in the fact that Chris Tucker appears, and isn’t irritating beyond words.
The main issue I had with Silver Linings Playbook is that it sets up the world of the movie as a world recognisably our own “ and different from romcom land “ where life is sometimes a struggle and happy there isn’t always a happy ending. This encourages the audience to engage their brains and not just ˜sit back and enjoy the ride’. However, later in the film, the plot borrows heavily from the kinds of set ups and artifices that are common in romcom land “ but which don’t ring true here. Having taken great care to set up believable characters, the film then throws them into a scenario that is scarcely credible. It’s like the director wants you to switch your brain on, but only for selected elements, which I found impossible to do, and which diminished my enjoyment of Silver Linings Playbook. For me, it’s this problem that prevents this likeable movie, well directed and superbly acted, from being something special.