Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Watch for the signs 

Life doesn’t always go according to plan some say and director David O. Russell’s new picture explores the unforeseen transformation that people’s lives can sometimes suddenly take; mixing comedy with drama the film breaks away from the typical predictability plagued by most romantic comedy features of late.

Former teacher Patrick ‘Pat’ Solitano Jr. (Bradley Cooper) has just been released from a mental health care facility for his bipolar disorder after eight months of treatment. The condition of release states that Pat Jr. is to move back into his parents’ Philadelphia home along with his mother, Dolores Solitano (Jacki Waever) and unemployed father Pat Solitano Sr. (Robert De Niro). Pat Jr. also discovers that while locked away, his wife Nikki (Brea Bee) has decided to distance herself from him. Determined to get his life back on track, Pat Jr. tries to reconcile with Nikki, who has obtained a restraining order against him after the violent episode that sent him away.

While at his friend Ronnie’s (John Ortiz) house for a ‘welcome home’ dinner, Pat Jr. meets Ronnie’s sister-in law, Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence), a young widower and recovering sex addict, who has just lost her job. From there, Pat Jr. and Tiffany develop an unusual friendship through their shared neuroses, however Pat Jr. also sees Tiffany as an opportunity to re-connect with his wife Nikki, through her acquaintance with Tiffany. Tiffany later offers to deliver a letter to Nikki for Pat Jr., if in return he would accompany her for an upcoming dance competition. Pat Jr. initially reluctantly agrees but an unexpected bond later begins to form between the pair, offering both another chance at happiness and a new silver lining.

Hey guys ... Look at the camera will you!
Hey guys … Look at the camera will you!

The key to this wonderful film’s success is it’s terrific ensemble cast, all of who portray their characters with a deep complexity, while director David O. Russell’s, The Fighter (2010), sincere direction brings a winning touch to this escapist rom-com. Apparently, Bradley Cooper, The Hangover (2009), landed the lead role as Pat Jr. after director Russell saw Cooper’s work in The Wedding Crashers (2005) and was impressed by his ‘good-bad guy energy,’ stating, ‘you’re not sure where he’s coming from.’ Here Cooper is at his career best with his portrayal of the damaged Pat Solitano Jr., as he balances comedy and drama effortlessly, creating a very flawed but affable character.

Cooper’s co-star Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games (2012), proves that she can smoothly breakaway from her teenage stereotype, and received an Academy Award for Best Actress with her multilayered portrayal of Tiffany, playing the character with unforced maturity and conviction, without losing touch of Tiffany’s deep-seeded vulnerability. Whilst the chemistry between the emotionally damaged pair does take it’s time to ignite, it’s delightful to watch once it explodes. Chris Tucker, Rush Hour (1998) also soars playing against his typical loud-mouthed typecast in a mellow, yet fairly comedic role. Let’s not forget about Robert De Niro’s, Meet the Parents (2000), outstanding work as the obsessive-compulsive father, a return to form for the veteran actor after several years of sub-par performances.

Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro clearly thrilled with the picture's Oscar Nominations!
Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro clearly thrilled with the picture’s Oscar Nominations!

It’s evident that director David O. Russell has had no qualms exploring heavy issues in film such as mental illness and marital failure in the past, yet here he tackles these issues with such candour resulting in a bracingly sharp, truthful and satisfying picture; it almost appears as O. Russell is getting better and better with each subsequent film. Despite the fact that Silver Linings Playbook does have some solid laughs, it’s much heavier on drama as a whole. The screenplay adapted from the novel The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick and Russell himself is rich amid with emotion and humour; the characters almost jump off the screen becoming fully functioning human beings audiences might care about and when everything is at stake in the film’s final act, viewers will be glued to the edge of their seats, cheering these characters on.

Ultimately Silver Linings Playbook is a winner in all regards, it’s witty yet heartbreaking, captivating and honest, a film about imperfect relationships between imperfect people; it’s no wonder it was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, it’s also the first film since 1981 to be Oscar-nominated for the four major acting categories, a testament to the actor’s excellent work as a whole.  Because the film touched me on a rather emotional lever, a rarity these days, it’s impossible not to recommend Silver Linings Playbook to anyone who enjoys ‘good films,’ who knows, it may even serve as an eye-opener towards mental illness for some.

4.5 / 5 – Highly Recommended

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

Silver Linings Playbook is released through Roadshow Entertainment Australia