Nominated for 8 Academy Awards, Silver Linings Playbook is a smart and sensitive drama. It will take you on a journey filled with family, love and laughter. Review after the jump.
Pat [Jr.] Solitano (Bradley Cooper) has been living with Bipolar disorder all his life; only he didn’t know it until one violent incident saw him before the courts and subsequently admitted to a mental health institution. After 8 months treatment, Pat is released into the care of his parents Dolores (Jackie Weaver) and Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro). His father who has undiagnosed OCD is particularly pleased to see him, as he believes Pat Jr. is the key to the Eagles winning, which will insure the success of his bookmaking venture.
Just as it seems like Pat Jr. ‘s struggles with adjusting to life at home and estrangement from his wife (who he adores) will insure his speedy return to the hospital, he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence). Tiffany has her own suite of problems, and initially the two only irritate each other. However after spending some time together they realise that they could help each other out. They make a deal which gives them both something they believe they need, and from there an intense and emotionally charged friendship grows.
Silver Linings Playbook is a character-driven film, and what characters they are. The protagonist, Pat Jr. is complex, intense, a ball of both negative and positive energy and yet is still utterly relatable and human. He has obviously had a hard time throughout his life dealing with his mental health, but it is only now that his struggles has a name. I think this was a relief for him, but at the same time he wasn’t sure what to do with it. The film focuses on his journey in understanding his own mind and looking for the silver lining in life.
Cooper is absolutely outstanding in this film; this is quite simply a career-best performance from him. He manages to convey both the manic moments and absolute moments of heart-breaking pain. He also nails the funnier moments, and his chemistry with Jennifer Lawrence is palpable. Lawrence also delivers a fantastic performance as the multi-layered Tiffany. She is always good, and here she takes the opportunity to shine both in the dramatic and comedic moments.
The film also gives us the best performance from Robert De Niro since Heat. His character is all over the show – an obsessive compulsive who masks his issues with his love of sport, the most manliest of American pastimes. De Niro nails it, and father-son moments between him and Cooper are stand outs.
Silver Linings Playbook explores the complexity of family relationships in the most honest of fashions. There is no hiding the pain that the family members cause each other; but in the same way their love is undeniable. I loved how much they frustrated each other, yelled over each other and said really brutal things. I loved this because at the root their was always love and care. The didn’t always know what the right thing to do was, but they were going to give it a go anyway. It’s a credit to the actors and director that the chaotic family scenes worked.
What also worked was the soundtrack. A real mix of music that helped set the tone in film which changed tones in a heartbeat. Often mirroring the feelings of the protagonist, the music had energy.
While the film stayed away from predictability for the most part, it did become slightly formulaic in the later stages. There was also a couple of supporting characters who didn’t serve much purpose. The police officer assigned to Pat Jr.’s case seemed to be a little bit too skilled about always being just right where he was needed.
Silver Linings Playbook is a film filled with both moments of joy and moments of pain. It has characters with real depth, and you can’t help but be fully invested in their happiness. This is an outstanding film which is more than worthy of your time.
By Sam McCosh
Director: David O. Russell
Writer(s): David O. Russell (screenplay), Matthew Quick(novel)
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jackie Weaver
Runtime: 122 minutes
Release date(s): Australia & New Zealand: January 31 2013; USA: November 16 2012