Silver Linings Playbook
Thank your lucky stars that your friends and family don’t resemble the people in
Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper: Hit and Run) is going through a rough patch. An undiagnosed manic-depressive most of his life, Pat got his diagnosis when he nearly beat the life out of his cheating wife’s lover.
To get beyond this violent outburst, he is remanded to a mental institution. Pat is more interested in getting his wife back — and getting her to lift her restraining order — than getting better. Instead of pills and therapy, Pat decides he needs to get in shape and improve his attitude.
That’s good enough for his enabler mother, who checks him out early. His OCD bookie father (Robert De Niro: Being Flynn) isn’t much help. Pat’s fiercely positive attitude barely controls his mania, but it’s pretty clear he’s drowning.
Meeting widowed nymphomaniac Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence: House at the End of the Street) draws him farther down the rabbit hole. Will Pat resist her charms and win back his wife? Do his father’s remote control rituals really ensure Eagles victories? Is there a single sane person in the whole of Philadelphia?
Silver Linings Playbook is a screwball romance of characters as dizzy as the plot. Sexual compulsives, manic depressives, obsessive compulsives and the generally depraved swirl together in this hilarious and oddly touching version of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. The plot and the ending won’t be a surprise if you know romantic comedies, but the journey is entertaining.
Director David O. Russell (The Fighter) has made a lucrative career of exploring the quirks of his characters. Russell mines unique traits to make each of these colorful individuals real and interesting. He also has a knack for eliciting amazing performances.
De Niro comes back to life exploring the nuance of character in his juju-obsessed bookie.
Cooper is also better than ever as Pat, who is losing his white-knuckle grip on sanity. Usually content to smile and wrinkle his eyes, he dives into this role. Especially effective are the manic episodes, when Pat’s smile and bright eyes don’t quite hide the rage and paranoia bouncing around his un-medicated head.
The true star of the film, however, is Lawrence, who brings electric energy to the screen. Tiffany is a woman on the long and brutal path to recovery. She’s accepted herself, flaws and all, and is determined to move forward. Lawrence plays her as a woman tired of being battered by life and the people trying to help her. When she meets Pat, the chemistry crackles. She thinks this aggressive, unfiltered, unhinged man is her kindred spirit.
The only tarnish in Silver Linings Playbook is that Russell never breaks the level of insanity. It’s exhausting to follow Pat as he zips through manic episodes and screams through his depression. His idiosyncrasies and mania are just the beginning. There are so many fundamentally damaged people populating the movie, that you wonder why the Philadelphia government doesn’t pipe Valium into the water supply.
Still, Silver Linings Playbook is that rare bird: a romantic comedy with compelling leads. Bring your friends and family to see it, and thank your lucky stars that they don’t resemble the people you’re watching on screen.