Silver Linings Playbook: Bipolar Meets Commitment Issues

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

DIRECTOR: David O’Russel

STARRING: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Anupam Kher, Chris Tucker

GENRE: Romantic Comedy-drama

YEAR: 2012

COUNTRY: United States

Against medical advice and without the knowledge of her husband Pat Solatano Sr., caring Dolores Solatano discharges her adult son, Pat Solatano Jr., from a Maryland mental health institution after his minimum eight month court ordered stint. The condition of the release includes Pat Jr. moving back in with his parents in their Philadelphia home. Although Pat Jr.’s institutionalization was due to him beating up the lover of his wife Nikki, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Nikki has since left him and has received a restraining order against him. Although he is on medication (which he doesn’t take because of the way it makes him feel) and has mandatory therapy sessions, Pat Jr. feels like he can manage on the outside solely by healthy living and looking for the “silver linings” in his life. His goals are to get his old job back as a substitute teacher, but more importantly reunite with Nikki. He finds there are certain instances where he doesn’t cope well, however no less so.

Every single one of us is at least a little fucked up mentally. Obviously some people have worse conditions than others, but deep down there’s something tweaked within all of us – it’s part of the human experience.  And that’s what makes Silver Linings Playbook, the new movie from writer-director David O. Russell based on the novel by Matthew Quick, such an impressive piece of filmmaking: the lead character is described is an undiagnosed bipolar locked up after a violent attack, but his recovery and the sometimes cockeyed support he gets from his loved ones only exposes the fact that none of us are anything close to what could be described as “normal.”

Following intensely serious roles in “Winter’s Bone” and “The Hunger Games,” it is such a joy to see yet another facet to Lawrence’s talent. She’s already demonstrated a maturity beyond her years, but “Silver Linings Playbook” allows her to let loose and have a little fun while still maintaining a dramatic integrity.

On the flip side, Cooper gets a rare chance to show his dramatic side. The early scenes in last year’s “Limitless” (in which De Niro also played a father figure to him) were always the most interesting – when he’s shaggy and paunchy and depressed, before he takes the pill that makes him Bradley Cooper. There’s a mania to his performance here as his character strives to convince himself of his capacity for happiness, but also a raw dark side.

The romance is the point of the movie, but as this plays out, it lessens the comic potential that had been banked up so steeply at first: as so often in the past, it’s more rom and less com. We know Pat will transfer his affections – of course he will – and the first inklings of this strange possibility on Cooper’s damaged face are entertaining to behold. The actual shift itself, however, and the new emotional maturity in Pat it implies, are fudged. But Russell’s storytelling, pacing and audience reaction control are muscular and surefooted. This is a date movie that doesn’t offer the sophistication it thinks it does, but is as enjoyable and good-natured as the genre requires.

PROS:

  • Jennifer Lawrence performance.
  • Robert Di Niro performance.
  • Bradley Cooper performance.
  • Character relationships.

CONS:

  • Too much romance.
  • Not enough balance between romance and comedy.
  • Gives us the bare minimum.

SCORE: 6.5 / 10

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