When I went to see “Silver Linings Playbook” over winter break, it was hard to know what to expect.
While I love Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, the two main stars of the movie, and it’s been nominated for eight Oscars, I was still a bit put off by the heavy subject matter.
It’s been categorized as a “black comedy about mental illness,” which means that it could’ve easily been done in a way that was insensitive, depressing, or even silly.
However, director David O. Russell handles this film so well that the end result is a genuinely funny, smart, and surprisingly uplifting film.
Bradley Cooper plays Patrick, a former teacher who is prone to violent fits of rage and has just been released from a mental hospital.
He refuses to take his medication because he doesn’t want to deal with the bloating they cause and still thinks he has a chance with his estranged wife, even though she cheated on him and is the main reason he was sent into the mental ward in the first place.
He returns home to Philadelphia to live with his parents. His doting mom is played by Jacki Weaver, and Robert De Niro plays his dad, Pat Sr., an obsessive Philadelphia Eagles fan and gambler with OCD who tries to use football to reconnect with his son.
Through an old friend, he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a young widow who has had a rough time dealing with the sudden death of her husband and is almost as tempermental as Pat.
There are many things that make this such a great film. The cast, for one thing, is just impeccable. Cooper, who’s mostly known for playing the pretty boy roles in comedies like “The Hangover,” proves that he isn’t just a pretty face and actually has a serious side.
His performance is a nuanced, unpredictable, and honest portrayal of someone with bipolar. He does have his amusing scenes and quirks, but even then you can sense how unstable his character is.
One of his best scenes is where he has a mental breakdown and starts searching through the house for his wedding video in the middle of the night. As his parents try to calm him down, he starts screaming so loud that he wakes the entire neighborhood and he has graphic flashbacks of the day when he caught his wife cheating on him and almost killed the man she was with.
What makes this scene even more intense is Led Zeppelin’s “What Is and What Shall Never Be” playing in the background.
Jennifer Lawrence is also remarkable in this movie. Her Tiffany is a broken soul who puts up a tough and aggressive front, but only because she doesn’t want other people to feel sorry for her.
She can go from being feisty and abrasive in one scene to displaying a surprising amount of pathos in the next scene. Even though she and Patrick start off on the wrong foot and constantly deny any attraction to each other, they still warm to each other and slowly but surely fill the voids in each other’s hearts.
Russell’s direction is definitely something to be commended in this film. He mixes comedic sight gags with the harshness these characters go through perfectly.
Much like the characters, the movie has its emotional ups and downs can go from being funny to intense within just one scene. The best sight gag involves Patrick wearing a plastic bag while running in order to keep his weight down, which draws humorously confused glances from his dad and neighbors.
One running joke has Pat Sr. believing that Patrick brings the Eagles “good juju” and causes them to win whenever they watch their games together. While this may seem goofy and ridiculous, it also serves as a reminder that Patrick’s mental condition is somewhat hereditary.
The one issue I had with this movie is that it tended to follow some overused romantic-comedy clichés. These clichés may serve to cause drama, but they also felt too conventional, especially when the rest of the movie is so offbeat.
It didn’t need these clichés and it already had several effectively dramatic and funny scenes that didn’t follow any of these clichés. Still, this is a just a knit-pick on an otherwise enjoyable movie. It’s a clever mix of black comedy and romance and is well-written, well-directed, and superbly acted.
People will probably see this movie to see what all the Oscar buzz is about, but they’ll be won over by its comedy and heart. Through all it spouts of dysfunction and humor, it’s a movie that shows that everyone is a little messed up in some way, and that’s perfectly okay.
“Silver Linings Playbook” is still playing in theaters. It has been nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Bradley Cooper), Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence), Best Supporting Actor (Robert De Niro), and Best Supporting Actress (Jacki Weaver).