Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Film Review: Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell, 2012)
Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) has just spent eight months in a mental institution, having beaten up the man his wife Nikki was having an affair with to near-death and been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He moves in with his parents, intent on getting into shape and his life back on track and winning his wife back. However, she has long moved on, and his dream of them getting back together is just that. He meets the equally nutty Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) at a friend’s dinner party and despite her immediately showing interest, he, so set on his mission of getting Nikki back, only sees her as a way of getting past her restraining order in order to deliver a letter to her.
From the beginning of the film, when Chris Tucker, so immortalized by his performances in the Rush Hour movies, cameos as a mental patient with a fixation on the way his hair is cut, you know you’re in for a quirky movie. Mental illness is a fragile topic to make a film about, but the screenplay is as witty as it is excruciatingly painful. The social nuances of Silver Linings Playbook are as amusing as they are painful. Both Pat and Tiffany have siblings who have done much better with their lives than they, and like parading it in their faces, a sentiment I think anyone with an annoying over-achieving family member can share.
Bradley Cooper, who has long plied his trade as “that hottie off the Hangover movies” makes a charismatic lead here and gives a solid dramatic performance, convincing us of his heartfelt task of winning his wife back, as well as capturing the losses of controls that his character takes – for example , he is plagued by memories of his wedding song, which is what was playing when he caught his wife cheating on him.
Jennifer Lawrence, who has already scooped a Golden Globe and a Screen Actor Guild Award for her portrayal of Tiffany, is a more than capable co-star. Tiffany, like Pat, is also on medication, and also achieved her funny turn due to a spouse (in her case, it was due to the death of her husband, which led her down a path of promiscuity), but she at least acknowledges her shortcomings. She fiercely announces to Pat, “there’s always going to be a part of me that’s sloppy and dirty, but I like that.” Lawrence is a very young actress, and such was her youth that even the director has reservations about casting her as the gobby female lead, but such is the expressiveness of Lawrence’s eyes, her deadpan delivery, that she’s more than cut-out for this role. Tiffany, for me, is the film’s most interesting character and even though Pat may be infuriatingly slow to recognise that she’s good for him, we as the audience are rooting for them throughout.
The supporting cast are all a charm – Roberto De Niro is never less than magnetic in any performance he gives, and there’s a certain wisdom that he imbues the character of Pat’s superstitious book-making father. Jacki Weaver, who is forever destined to play the matriarch role in all movies she appears in (see also: Animal Kingdom) , conveying the mother who just wants her son to be happy, even when he clearly doesn’t know what’s best for himself. Chris Tucker is absolutely hilarious as Pat’s trouble-making friend.
As is my complaint with the vast majority of dramatic comedies, my main gripe with Silver Linings Playbook is the tonal modulation, which wasn’t quite perfect. Some parts are laugh-out-loud hilarious, whilst others are actually quite painful viewing (domestic arguments always make me uncomfortable.) In the end, things are all tied up in the most rom-com of ways (there’s even a dance sequence climax; how so very Disney), when we know that in life, and lamentably, particularly for characters like Pat and Tiffany, there’s not always such a happy ending. But Russell’s slight film means that the journey with them, on the whole, is a pleasure.