Having thought from the trailer that this David O. Russell feature looked like a bit of a guilty pleasure chick flick, I had expectations of a comedy with a heart-warming message, and an easy watch. I could not have been more wrong, and have never been happier to admit that.
Silver Linings Playbook is a fantastically honest, true and funny depiction of two people’s very serious mental health issues. The film deals with these problems head-on, almost daring the audience to question the place of insanity in a comedy setting, which is the best thing that Russell could have done.
Casting heart-throb Bradley Cooper to play lead role Pat could have been a gamble, but Cooper fulfils the character and then some. Not only does his place in the film hint that mental health problems can affect anyone (even our most treasured stars), it is also refreshing to see Cooper take on a deeper role, and with such success. The Hunger Games’ Jennifer Lawrence plays Pat’s friend Tiffany, and the two spark off each other incredibly well.
Lawrence is fiery and passionate, expressing her emotions through dance, which later forms an important aspect of the plot. Her presence on screen commands attention, as her quirky looks and feisty spirit challenges Cooper’s character to the limit. Cooper hits back with outbursts of suppressed emotion, particularly in scenes involving his parents, and these sections of the film verge on the cusp of terrifying and brutal reality as we delve deeper into the psyche.
Pat’s parents, Pat Sr. and Dolores are played by Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver respectively. The pair make an excellent duo, and their polar opposite parenting techniques offer insight into the breakdown in family dynamics; more so with the introduction of brother Jake (Shea Whigham).
The presence of De Niro in the cast list was a contributing factor in my first suspicions of this as a light rom-com, after his many stints as the go-to father figure in many recent comedies. Chris Rock also makes an appearance and again is best known for silly, comic roles, but here both actors deliver excellent and rather more poignant performances.
De Niro’s character also has a fatal flaw: a chronic gambling addiction. This is important to the story, as the film not only addresses Pat and Tiffany’s medically-recognised issues, but also the undiagnosed cases of their family and friends, highlighting the fact that even those playing happy families are not completely satisfied. This comes into play in regards to Pat’s filthy rich friend Ronnie (John Oritz) and wife Veronica (Julia Stiles).
Silver Linings Playbook delivers the warm ending I had originally hoped for, but this comes after an intelligent, witty and wonderfully constructed narrative arc, littered with incredibly unique and loveable characters. Cooper and Lawrence are perfect as the leads and manage to tell a story so filled with pain and trauma in an utterly engrossing and beautiful way. The writing is fantastic, and delivers moments of unexpected, yet totally welcome emotion and drama so often missing in the blockbusters of today.
Academy Award panel, look this way…