Dir: David O. Russel
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Chris Tucker
Running time: 122 mins
Release: November 21st
We all have our craziness. We have to stir tea exactly 30 times before we drink it. We secretly despise our entire family. We’re so anxious and lonely we can barely get up in the morning. How magnificent then, that here is a film that not only acknowledges this fact, but has two characters who refuse to play along to the typical lie of normality. Who are frank and honest to the point of bluntness. Who acknowledge their own flaws and struggle to deal with them, the way most people go through their whole lives.
Now, Pat (Cooper) and Tiffany (Lawrence) have deeper flaws and worse problems than most people; he’s bi-polar and just out of a mental institution as a result of beating his wife’s lover close to death, she’s recently widowed and depressed to the point of job-losing promiscuity. They don’t let these things break them though, and push against being defined by them. Particularly Pat, whose struggle initially takes the form of refusing his medication, believing that a positive attitude and disciplined schedule will let him get a ‘silver lining.’ The intensity Bradley Cooper imbues him with is incredible; initially a little scary and alienating, but eventually wonderful; composed and self assured.
Opposite him, Jennifer Lawrence gives another fantastic performance in a career quickly filling up with them. That a 22 year old is now assumed to be brilliant in every role is incredible, but then you see the pain, frustration and star-hot anger in Tiffany’s face and you remember exactly why; Jennifer Lawrence is awesome.
As impressive as the leads both are, without a supporting cast to highlight the struggle of just getting by, this would merely be a decent romantic comedy with two great performances. The story is borderline banal, and not a lot even happens. What makes this a great movie is the relationships; the deeply flawed but relatable people involved and the actors making those people as real as any characterisation in recent cinema history. From Pat’s friend Ronnie, whose debt and lie-laden marriage is crushing the life out of him, to Danny (Tucker), a fellow patient whose constant attempts to escape belie a greater need to escape both himself and his problems. All pale in comparison to Pat’s father (De Niro) though, a man of such rage, loss and neuroses that it’s easy see where Pat gets it from. All real people, beautifully flawed and wholly compelling.
Compelling is the easiest way to describe Silver Linings Playbook. The story, about Pat trying to better himself via a dance competition with Tiffany so his wife will take him back, serves mostly as dressing. The real story is in Pat’s growing stability. Though his initial bluntness is played for laughs, his mental state is never the subject of fun, with the struggle he goes through just to be alright on a day to day basis a very real problem for countless people. There’s no easy solution here, and though this is a romantic comedy, his (inevitable) happy ending is struggled and worked and strived for. It’s a very grown up look at how life and mental health really work. It also has a kick ass dance number, which helps.