Director David O’Russell’s (The Fighter) latest offering is the offbeat comedy, Silver Linings Playbook, which is a romance, of sorts, but unlike one you’ve ever seen before. The film begins with Pat’s (Bradley Cooper) release from a psychiatric institution after eight months after being sent there for beating up his wife’s lover. His sole mission, now that he’s free, is to become the perfect man and husband and get back with his wife. To do this, he follows the hospital’s Excelsior method of finiding the silver linings in every situation. Simple enough one would think except that his ex has got a restraining order against him and his bipolar condition causes him to speak without filtering his thoughts.
Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) who is struggling to recover from the death of her husband and is, much like Pat, fighting against inner demons and labels of ‘crazy’ from others. The two are drawn to each other and bond over their mutual need for medication and a disregard for social conventions. Each is able to tap into the source of the other’s pain and that makes great viewing. The acting performances are transfixing and relentless in their ability to portray characters within a maelstrom of pian and hurt without romanticising it.
O’Russell has made a film about the ‘others’ in society who are usually glossed over in Hollywood. Neither of the protagonists are perfect and that is what makes them brilliant. There is strong attention drawn to mental illness yet O’Russell refuses to sentimentalise Pat’s struggles, there are times when you believe that he should be ‘sent back to Baltimore’ where the hospital is. One can empathise with his struggle yet times when his sanity and reasoning is strongly contested.
There are many things I loved about this film aside from the acting talent: the script was incredibly funny and honest and the soundtrack was fantastic. There is an undercurrent of genius throughout that demonstrates O’Russell’s control over the whole experience, literary allusions to Hemingway and Golding will have you reeling with respect for a film which is a lot cleverer than it makes it out to be.
Lawrence has been hotly contested to win an Oscar for this performance. I think it’s a bit premature to predict those sort of things but this performance, as well as Cooper’s and a magnificent supporting cast of Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro (in his best role in years) make this well worth a trip to the cinema. This film has everything: heartbreak, romance, comedy, football, dancing and jogging. It’ll make you radiate with warmth afterwards!