Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

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Silver Linings Playbook is a romantic comedy that happens to focus on a number of people who have mental health problems. The fact that it balances the romance with the gentle humour with one of the best depictions of bipolar disorder I have seen onscreen is quite a feat indeed, but, then again, director David O. Russell (who also wrote the screenplay, based on the novel by Matthew Quick) is someone who has not disappointed me yet with any of his movies.

Bradley Cooper stars as Pat, a young man who is taken out of a mental institution by his mother (Jacki Weaver) on the proviso that he continues to seek help and get himself better. Why was he in a mental institution? Well, not only is Pat bipolar, but he also had quite an explosive outburst when he found his wife with another man. While getting himself back on the road to recovery, however, he spurs himself on with the thought of a reconciliation, despite the fact that he now has a restraining order prohibiting him from getting too close to his wife. When Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) he meets a kindred spirit, but he’s the only person who doesn’t see it, thanks in no small part to his determination to get back together with his wife. Pat and Tiffany start to bring out the best in each other, even if Pat’s mother and father (played by Robert De Niro) aren’t too sure about the girl. Pat needs Tiffany to help him get in touch with his estranged wife and Tiffany needs Pat to partner her in an upcoming dance competition. Can they be/become real friends or are they just using each other?

A decent script is spun into gold thanks to the choices made by Russell and the fine cast that he’s assembled. Doubters may roll their eyes and assume that Bradley Cooper is just in the lead role because he’s a big name now able to sell a few tickets, but his performance is the best that he’s ever given. Jennifer Lawrence at last gives another performance to remind people of why she was so highly praised for her turn in Winter’s Bone and De Niro fans can breathe a sigh of relief that working alongside someone as wonderful as Jacki Weaver seems to encourage him to deliver a performance at least in the same ballpark as some of his past glories. Even Chris Tucker does great work here, and that’s a sentence I thought I’d never write. Anupam Kher plays a doctor who actually does want to help Cooper’s character while John Ortiz does well, once again, as a best friend helping out someone who isn’t always the best in social situations (Ortiz was also very good in Jack Goes Boating).

I think that just how much you enjoy Silver Linings Playbook will very much depend on how much of it you can, for better or worse, identify with. It doesn’t show the very depths of depression, which would be tough to include in any movie without dragging the whole thing down, but it gets a lot of little things absolutely right. In that regard, it’s a worthwhile film. It will soon show others, especially those who try to pass off their minor mood swings as bipolar disorder (a personal bugbear of mine), just how hard each daily struggle can be and it might get people talking about mental health, how it affects individuals and how others view such ailments with a mix of ignorance and fear. I don’t want to make the film out to be something more important than it is, but it’s certainly a good starting point and that is, sometimes, all that’s needed to encourage positive forward momentum.

Whatever your experiences with, or thoughts about, mental illness, give Silver Linings Playbook a watch and see just how much of it you can identify with. Let’s face it, who defines just what is normal behaviour? I’m happy to think that 99% of the people I know and love are incurable and I wouldn’t change them one little bit.

DIRECTOR: DAVID O. RUSSELL
WRITER: DAVID O. RUSSELL (BASED ON THE NOVEL BY MATTHEW QUICK)
STARS: BRADLEY COOPER, JENNIFER LAWRENCE, ROBERT DE NIRO, JACKI WEAVER, CHRIS TUCKER, ANUPAM KHER, JOHN ORTIZ, SHEA WHIGHAM, JULIA STILES, DASH MIHOK
RUNTIME: 122 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: USA

Film Rating: ★★★★☆

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