REVIEW: SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
By Colton Dunham
In the midst of a difficult situation, those who are most optimistic will try to look for a silver lining in the clouds that hang above them. The attempt to find the silver lining makes one hopeful that everything will eventually be ok even though in that particular moment, everything is not. As the comedy/drama Silver Linings Playbook opens, we are introduced to Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) as he’s pacing around his room having a conversation with himself. We quickly discover that Pat is just about to be released after serving a brief stint in a mental institution because of a violent outburst that significantly altered his personal life. From this point forward, Pat declares that he’s going to find the silver lining in every dark cloud that hangs above him. Based on the novel by Matthew Quick, Silver Linings Playbook has more to offer than a quirky portrait of Pat’s mental illness. The film marks a comedic return for Oscar nominated writer/director David O. Russell who balances elements of a mental illness drama and a romantic comedy without failure. The film uniquely blends mental illness, football, romance, and dancing together into a cohesive narrative that doesn’t trail off into complete absurdity.
Pat’s stay at a mental institution is part of a plea-bargaining deal after his arrest. A few months before, he arrived home to find his English teacher-wife Nikki in the shower with one of her colleagues. After losing control of his anger, he nearly beats the man to death with his bare hands. His loss of control significantly altered his personal life. He lost his job as a substitute teacher, his home, and his marriage. When he’s welcomed back into his parent’s home, he is obsessively determined to win back Nikki but this proves to be difficult due to the restraining order. He convinces himself that he just needs to stay positive to feel better rather than take any of his medication to readjust his behavior. He feels by staying positive, reading every book on Nikki’s English class syllabus, and working out to stay fit, he’ll be able to win her back.
During dinner with his friends, he meets the promiscuous Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) who has problems of her own. She’s a medicated depressive who is still suffering the loss of her husband Tommy. Ever since his death, she’s become addicted to sex and even lost her job by sleeping with everyone in the office. As Pat and Tiffany start to awkwardly connect, Tiffany decides to persuade Pat in being her dance partner for a dance competition. In exchange for being her dance partner, Tiffany offers to give Nikki a letter written by Pat.
Silver Linings Playbook could’ve gone many different routes to transform the narrative into a clichéd bore. Thankfully, the film manages to stay quirky, engaging, and surprisingly dark throughout the duration due to the solid script, direction, and Oscar-worthy performances. The most surprising aspect of the film was the performances. When you say the name Bradley Cooper people may immediately think of the Hangover films. In Silver Linings Playbook, Cooper acts against usual form and by doing so gives the best performance of his career so far as Pat. This is the first time I’ve ever seen the actor showcase some acting chops and I believe his performance is so good that he has a real shot at an Oscar nomination. Oscar nominated actress Jennifer Lawrence also gives a fantastic performance in the film as Tiffany. Lawrence certainly stands out from other actresses her age in Hollywood due to the fact that she’s willing to take risks in her performances. I sincerely hope that she takes on more riskier and darker roles as she advances in her career. Oscar nominees Robert Deniro and Jackie Weaver portray Pat’s parents in the film. While Jackie Weaver wasn’t given much to work with for her role, Robert Deniro is the true stand out by giving his best performance in the last twenty years. Chris Tucker (yes, THE Chris Tucker from the Rush Hour and Friday films) has a small humorous role in the film portraying one of Pat’s closer friends that he met in the mental institution but keeps trying to escape.
As mentioned previously, Silver Linings Playbook had every opportunity to go into a clichéd route but manages to stay fresh and engaging due to a solid script and direction by writer/director David O. Russell. The film has its fair share of both dramatic and comedic moments that helps the audience to be drawn to the dysfunctional characters. It also helps to be drawn to the characters due to the fantastic performances by the central cast. Writer/director David O. Russell is sure to get Oscar attention like he did two years ago for The Fighter. Silver Linings Playbook is certainly not the best film of the year, but it deserves your attention because a comedy/drama like this doesn’t show up in theaters often.