Review: Silver Linings Playbook
David O. Russell return to the directing chair from his major hit, The Fighter, to create another heart warming drama in the Silver Linings Playbook. It is already getting well deserved Oscar buzz for terrific performances, a well written script and beautiful cinematography. The film centers on two people set with their own different mental illnesses and how it affects them in their daily life. It can be hard for them to interact with "normal" people and even more difficult for them to be accepted by those same people. Russell does a terrific job of not being too heavy handed in dealing with the mental illness sides of this film, as a lesser director/screenwriter could make it and inevitably fall into a whole heap of cliches. Instead, this film remains unique, albeit, it is easy to predict where the film ends the journey to that ending is an entertaining one unlike any romantic comedy I have seen this year.
The film starts off in Baltimore, more importantly a mental institution that Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) had been recently released from into the care of his parents after eight months of treatment. Upon getting out, he hears that his wife, who is the cause of a big deal of his issues and on top of that his father (Robert De Niro) had been fired from his job. His father is now trying to make money through bookmaking to save up enough money to start a restaurant. However, when his father sees him back home he immediately questions whether it is too soon for Pat to be out of the looney bin. Pat is instructed to also go to his court mandated therapy sessions with Dr. Patel, and in his first session he reminds his doctor as to why he had an outburst before being put into the mental institution eight months ago. He came home early one day from work to hear his wedding song playing on and clothes scattered throughout his home. To make matters worse, he saw his wife having sex with another man in their shower. Enraged, Pat nearly beat the man to death. With all of this in mind, Pat truly believed that he does not need medication.
With Pat back in town he manages to come across an old friend named Ronnie (John Ortiz) and his wife Veronica (Julia Stiles) who invite him to dinner to catch up. At the dinner, Ronnie explains that Veronica's sister Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) will be showing up and instructs Pat not to bring up the fact that her husband had recently passed away. Once Tiffany and Pat meet, Pat cannot hold back and asks about the passing of her husband. Through out the dinner in fact he continues to say inappropriate things which leads Tiffany to ask what medications he is currently on. The two begin to bond over their similarities with mental disorders and their shared hatred for the medications they are instructed to take. After the dinner, Pat walks Tiffany home where she quickly makes a move on him and invites him inside to have sex. He refuses as he points to his ring finger, insisting that his wife Nikki will still take him back when she sees how much better he has gotten.
From that day on, Pat continues to spend more and more time with Tiffany. The two make a deal where he will help her in a dance competition and in return she will deliver a letter to Nikki considering he cannot talk to her due to a restraining order she set on him. Pat's father begins to question why his son continues to hang out with Tiffany, considering her reputation around town as a woman that gets around. He also begins to open up to his son about how he feels that he had failed him as a father once Pat's disorders surfaced. He never knew how to comfort his son or how to talk to him, so he went to his own comfort zone and talked to his son about a similar interest, the Philadelphia sports teams. He began to blame the time Pat has been spending with Tiffany as the cause of the struggles of the Philadelphia Eagles. However, Pat was beginning to become happier and a better version of himself. After all, in the mental instituion he learned of a saying called "Excelsior" which meant if you keep positive and have a good outlook through all the bad stuff then you have a chance at a silver lining.
While the film in essence is a bit predictable, it does not detract from the fact that it plays out in a terrific way and is incredibly funny along the way. It helps greatly that Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence deliver two fantastic performances that should net them at the very least Oscar nominations. I have said after seeing Limitless that Cooper can be a serious actor, but after this he raises the bar another notch. As for Jennifer Lawrence, she begins to increase her rapidly growing star. She has multiple scenes that completely steal the show and are complete tearjerkers just from her facial expressions and the emotion she conveys just through her eyes. Her performance as Tiffany may just be worth the price of admission alone, shes that good. Robert De Niro also fairs well as Cooper's father and has a few highly emotional scenes with him as he does a terrific job in the role of a concerned and slightly unstable father. David O Russell again does a masterful job in the director's chair and as the screenwriter. Between this and The Fighter a few years back he is quickly rising as one of the best writers/directors in Hollywood.