Movie Review: Silver Linings Playbook
The director of The Fighter, whose last screenplay credit was 1999’s Three Kings, joins up with the drunk from The Hangover, the heroine from The Hunger Games, the loud-mouth cop from Rush Hour, and a man who hasn’t really made anything good in the last many years in Robert DeNiro, to create without a doubt one of the most charming and captivating comedic dramas of the year.
It is quite the strange collection, and it works perfectly, much to the credit of director David O. Russell. Silver Linings Playbook, based on the 2008 novel Matthew Quick, tells the refreshingly original story of 30-something-year-old Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper), a Philadelphia native who after eight months in a mental institution, moves back into his family and looks to get his old life back.
That old life includes strengthening his marriage with Nikki, the woman’s whose affair witnessed by Pat helped send him to a nervous breakdown is believed to still be deeply in love with Pat. It’s a strong relationship, remarks Pat, the kind where the couple goes weeks without talking.
Pat’s father (DeNiro), meanwhile is interested in father-son bonding, NFL Sunday style, with Pat serving as a good luck charm for the hometown Eagles. Just as Pat struggles with raging outbursts, delusions, and the tendency to say socially inappropriate things (with comedic results), Pat Sr. is obsessive-compulsive, and just as delusional, resting the outcome of a football game on what jerseys are worn around the house, and who is sitting where (like all sports fans).
As the family struggles to return to normalcy (and sleep throughout the night), Pat meets the equally troubled Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), sister-in-law of his best friend, a man with problems of his own in the form of a cookie-cutter oppressive marriage and economic downturns. There is also the equally strange and endearing Danny, played by Chris Tucker in what is a great comeback, a fellow patient Pat befriended during his time away.
What unfolds is an effective and engaging story that is far more universal than one would think. Pat and his family work together and at odds to restore their bond, while Tiffany, a widow with a stretch of nymphomania, starts to involve herself in Pat’s social life. Both are painfully frank, though not necessarily sure of what they are saying, making for some very interesting and awkward conversations. The two awkward have a strange charisma two them, at once shocking and endearing the audience as both are capable of screaming outbursts and depressive, hopeless, loneliness.
This would be as good a time as any to mention that Pat, who got fit while doing his time, jogs wearing a garbage bag atop his sweats. He is forward and out-there, but he admits more than others do who aren’t necessarily the most perfect pictures of mental health either. It’s not that Pat is wrongfully labeled as unhealthy, it’s just that we might all be a little unstable with the everyday parts of life that everyone experiences.
It is simply such a likeable movie, unpredictable and raw, but funny and heartwarming. A brilliant blend of writing and acting make for characters that are admittedly and reservedly flawed. Wide-eyed and focused, Pat is possessive of a childlike optimism and enthusiasm that serves him well when he embarks on his journey, but maybe not so much during. He screams ‘Excelsior’ and looks for the silver lining, a simplicity that is lost on his family and friend and likely many watching.
Pat feels good, and so will you watching, one that will warm the coldest of hearts, but not without going down a few darker roads, ultimately creating a beautiful film that is free of clichés and condescension, full of adult themes, and as smart and well-executed as they get.