Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro
Nominated for Best Picture and scooping up the Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence) prize at this year’s Oscars, Silver Linings Playbook is one romantic comedy I felt I needed to muster up the courage and attempt to sit through. Although I didn’t quite manage one sitting, over two sessions I completed the film leaving with some mixed emotions, much like the film itself.
Set in middle class suburban Philadelphia Silver Linings Playbook (SLP) tells the story of Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper), a lovable character battling with a bi-polar disorder as he tries to win back the affections of his estranged wife. The film starts with Pat being released from a psychiatric hospital and moving back in with his parents. After meeting recently widowed Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) the two strike up an unlikely friendship with Pat agreeing to enter into a dance competition with Tiffany if she agrees to help him send letters to his wife. As the story progresses, the two become closer with each helping the other deal with their own internal insecurities and disorders.
I think it’s safe to say that without the performances of Cooper, Lawrence and De Niro, SLP would not be the film that it is. For me, Cooper was the star of the show. Director David Russell and Bradley Cooper created an undeniably lovable character despite his obvious flaws and sometimes violent outbursts. In a scene that is bound to win the hearts of even the most cynical viewers Pat is up reading his wife’s set works at 4am when he suddenly launches the book through the window in an outrage. He then storms into his parents room to share his anger at the treatment of Ernst Hemmingway’s character. The scene is poignant insight into the mind of a bi-polar sufferer and instantly creates a connection between the audience and Pat.
Whilst ultimately the film is a love story with a predictable ending, it punches far above it’s weight as it deals with the fragile state of the human heart (and mind), the pain of rejection and the desperate search for renewal. Every character in the film is broken in some respect. Pat’s dad is a superstitious Philadelphia Eagles fan, willing to gamble his life’s savings on a single game in the belief that Pat is essentially a good luck charm. Like his son, he is prone to the occasional violent outburst. Pat’s friend Ronnie faces his own marriage problems whilst Tiffany struggles with sexual addiction in the wake of her husbands death. As is true in life, all the film’s characters are broken in their own unique way and rely on one another to overcome their own personal obstacles.
It’s never easy making a film around subject matter as sensitive as mental illness but Russell manages to convey the tragedy of the disorder whilst still injecting light hearted moments to keep you from slumping into the valley of despair and depression. Ultimately everyone is dealing with the own issues and obstacles. Ultimately Silver Linings Playbook is less about a particular disorder than it is about shedding light on our own personal disorders and the need for collaboration and community in dealing with them.