Movie review: Silver Linings Playbook

January 2, 2013


I honestly can’t remember the last time I sat around waiting for a movie to hit a theater near me. Silver Linings Playbook looked like my kind of story as soon as I read about it last summer in Entertainment Weekly.

So I stalked it, researched it, and waited. It was slated for a Thanksgiving opening date, and I was ready! Except the production company had decided to do a limited, slow release. So I waited some more, checking every Thursday, and sometimes on Tuesdays, for updated show times, eagerly anticipating this dark comedic-romantic-drama with the gorgeous Bradley Cooper, it-girl Jennifer Lawrence, and living legend Robert De Niro. One month later, on Christmas day, Silver Linings Playbook finally appeared in San Luis Obispo County. And I was not disappointed.

Silver Linings Playbook is not your typical feel-good movie. It’s got some grim angles, tackling topics like mental health disorders, infidelity, promiscuity, and the ickiest of all: family.

The film opens in Philadelphia with Pat (Cooper), fresh out of a mental hospital after serving eight months for nearly beating to death the man who he walked in on showering with his wife. He has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and he is now going to live with his mother and very OCD father (De Niro). Pat’s only desire is to shore up his marriage with Nikki, never mind the restraining order she has against him. His father’s only desire is for the Philadelphia Eagles to win. He’d go to every game; however, due to his brawling in the stands, he’s been banned from the stadium. Anger management issues might run in the family.

Enter Tiffany (Lawrence), the recently widowed sister-in-law of one of Pat’s neighborhood friends. She shakes up Pat’s world, first by bluntly asking him to bed, which he declines, then by stalking his running route, and finally by offering to shuttle messages to Nikki around the restraining order. All Pat has to do is be her dance partner. Tiffany is a deviant by most standards, but there’s just something captivating about her. She provides the blunt reality to the fantasy that Pat is trying to live. By maneuvering just spastically enough in his orbit, she is able to steady Pat’s world. And she’s gutsy enough to stand up to Pat Sr. later in the film.

I really like Jennifer Lawrence in this role, and I think director David O. Russell gives her room enough to be herself in this particular character.

Russell’s treatment of the film overall is pretty winning. He uses interesting camera methods to help communicate the intensity of Pat’s bipolar episodes. Inappropriate humor punctuates almost all of the potentially uncomfortable moments. And yet there’s a levity that suggests Russell understands the nature of mental illnesses. Sidebar: According to my research, Russell’s son carries both a bipolar and an OCD diagnosis, so the director probably lends a unique perspective to the subjects.

Silver Linings Playbook weaves some serious dysfunction together in a manner that is not only understandable, but pretty darn likeable. Every character grows a little, whether by self-discovery or proper medication. The neatness of the final chapter has been critically bemoaned; I personally don’t mind it. Frankly, it’s a movie. Sometimes it’s okay if the Eagles win.