Director: David O. Russell
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker
Written by: David O. Russell and (book) Matthew Quick
Running Time: 122 mins
Release date: 21st November 2012
Too often than not, the movies treat mental health issues in two ways: either as a form of ridicule (for example, What About Bob?) or they are depressing (see Spider). It’s so refreshing then that Silver Linings Playbook brings an edge of realism in a real feel-good treat, while never once poking fun at the illness or patronizing those who suffer from it.
Pat is a former teacher who is locked away in a hospital after catching his wife in the shower with a history teacher. Released to the custody of his mother, Pat returns to the family home where his father, an OCD Philadelphia Eagles fanatic who runs a bookmaking business from his home in order to raise money for his restaurant. Refusing to let go of the chance of rekindling his marriage, Pat reads the books on her English syllabus but finds them hard to cope with, while he cannot listen to Stevie Wonder’s My Cherie Amour, his wedding song, without flying in a state of rage.
Then he meets Tiffany, a young woman with her own problems. Losing her husband has led her to sleeping around and uncontrollable outbursts and lack of social skills. The two hardly hit it off and yet they are bonded by their own depressions. Wanting to communicate with his former wife, Pat asks Tiffany to deliver a letter to her but she will only comply if Pat dances with her in a local competition.
David O. Russell’s most commercial film to date is more an ensemble piece than just a simple romance between two different people and as he has done time and time again, has produced a film with some excellent performances. Bradley Cooper, who recently has just been another pretty face in a long line of Hollywood “hunks” proves he can act as bi-polar Pat. It’s a solid mix of comic and dramatic with plenty of believability. It would have been very easy for Cooper to just play loopy, yet he does bring subtly to the role as well as making him very sympathetic.
Jennifer Lawrence, who is slowly becoming the girl everyone wants in their movies, proves once again what a strong actress she is with a powerhouse performance as the equally problematic and volatile Tiffany. She not only is a natural beauty but here she plays so completely against type, it does take a while to realise it is her. Miles away from her Hunger Games performance, she could have a few nods when it comes to the awards season.
The two surprises in this film, however, comes from Robert De Niro and Chris Tucker. It’s been a long time since De Niro has handed in even a half decent performance but here he is back on form as Pat’s troubled father. Not only is he funny but there are flashes of the De Niro we use to know and love. Tucker, on the other hand, has always been this side of annoying. Here the high-pitched squealing that he delivers normally is gone and a subtle, underplayed performance as Pat’s friend is on offer instead. In a cameo role, it’s proof that tucker can do quiet instead of screaming and I want to see more of this from him.
Being part of the bi-polar club myself, I was apprehensive about the film and I hoped that it would handle the illness with the respect that it is due. I was not disappointed. There were moments that I certainly could recognise. It is very funny in places and the relationship between Pat and Tiffany is a delightful journey. I was slightly disappointed by the final act, which is so sugar coated and a typical Hollywood ending, something that Russell has never shown before and if you are a fan of the writer/director you will be a little shocked by this. Having said that, it can be forgiven as the rest of the film is such a joy.
Never getting dark enough to become depressive, this is a charming two hours in the company of great performances and at last, a positive approach to bi-polar disorder. I, for one, was charmed by it.