Movie Review: Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook is a well acted take on the rom-com genre centering around mental illness.

I've fallen behind on reviews (stupid finals). So, in order to catch up a bit before a handful of major releases hit theaters, the next few will be a bit shorter than normal.

Despite being a romantic comedy at its core, Silver Linings Playbook does share a few things with writer/director David O. Russell's previous film, 2010's Oscar-winning The Fighter. The most obvious similarity is the depiction of a family struggling with a very apparent, unhealthy dynamic. Whereas the latter dealt with serious drug addiction, among other things, Russell's latest deals with the impact of mental illness, some diagnosed and potentially some undiagnosed, on a small Philadelphia family.

Bradley Cooper stars as Pat Solitano, a former teacher whose life was upended after walking in on his wife cheating on him. After a violent blow-up, a bi-polar diagnosis, and a lengthy stay in a mental hospital, Pat returns home to live with his mother (Jackie Weaver) and his dangerously OCD father (Robert De Niro). Consumed with trying to prove that he's a changed man, Pat becomes friendly with an equally damaged woman named Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who he believes can put him back in contact with his wife.

Silver Linings Playbook doesn't reinvent the wheel by any means. It plays with a familiar formula, and anyone who doesn't know how it will end after about the first fifteen minutes hasn't seen a whole lot of movies. Because of its subject matter, however, it has a bit of a screw loose (to put it crudely). It's this aspect of Silver Linings that not only makes it a worthwhile genre entry, but that makes it stand out among countless other films basically attempting the same thing.

There's a manic-ness to most of the characters involved that at times can be tough to watch. Russell's presence behind the camera is constantly felt, mimicking the volatility of his subjects. The camera is rarely still, almost allowing us to see things through Pat's eyes. It's also no coincidence that things calm down as the film progresses.

Bradley Cooper is likely to open some eyes with his performance as Pat. He's a sympathetic character for a number of reasons. One being that very few will be able to fault him for literally and figuratively losing his mind. Another being that although he's desperately trying to get his life in order, the behavior of those closest to him make things harder than they already are. 

If I didn't know people like him, it'd be very hard to believe the actions of Robert De Niro. Giving his second strong performance of 2012 (the other being the unfairly overlooked Being Flynn), De Niro is superstitious to the point of obsessive. His behavior creates an unfortunate tension in the powder keg that already is the Solitano household. Add in the depressed and erratic Lawrence (who continues to impress with each role) and Silver Linings Playbookmanages to do something odd: make the entirely predictable feel fresh.


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