Movie Reviews

‘Silver Linings Playbook’: There’s gold in this playbook

By Azim AzmanMovies - 09 January 2013 3:06 PM

‘Silver Linings Playbook’: There’s gold in this playbook

Bradley Cooper plays man with bipolar disorder faces challenges while trying to reconcile with his ex-wife

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

To label ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ a straight up romantic comedy would be doing it an injustice. For one, its protagonists have deep psychological problems --  a movie ingredient which does not exactly scream “rom-com”.  Mix that with a cast of surprisingly strong actors and you have a compelling story about how one man finds love while at the same time deals with psychological problems that arise in the most violent of ways.

Bradley Cooper may be forever synonymous with the ‘Hangover’ franchise but we feel that is a shame. His performance in ‘Silver Linings’ is wonderfully nuanced, deserving of all the plaudits being heaped upon him.

Also read: A Bluffer’s Guide to - Romantic Comedies

He plays Pat Solitano, who is institutionalised following a violent mental breakdown which saw him beat a man, half to death. His fall from grace began the day he returned home and discovered his wife in the shower with another man. This near-homicide has a silver lining as it was only after this that he was diagnosed as being bipolar. Cooper’s portrayal of a man who is struggling with both his illness and the fact that his life has veered off its previous path is absolutely wonderful and by that we mean the acting, not the mental illness.

‘Silver Linings Playbook’ trailer

Jittery and perhaps only half aware that he has poor impulse control, Pat struggles to get to grips with his new reality. He has some semblance of strategy to help him deal with his very violent tendencies, which involves reading voraciously and running through his neighbourhood wearing a garbage bag over his sweater to sweat off the weight. His big plan to win back his philandering wife is pushed off track when he is introduced to the very rude Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who is dealing with her own dark demons following her husband’s death.

Together, they form an absolutely combustible pairing. Tiffany tries and succeeds to push Pat’s buttons and in the process, Pat somehow grows to allow somebody else into his heart again. Yes, the outcome is as predictable as any other rom-com but other rom-com don’t have their lovers go through intense psychotic episodes before eventually falling in love.  In that sense ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ eschews from the usual rom-com playbook of having two very good looking leads eventually coming together. Half the time, Cooper is seen running around his neighbourhood with black trash bag over himself to sweat off the pounds and with various scars on his face from his most recent violent episode. There are no glamour shots which put a halo around the leads, only gritty and jerky camera shots which adds to the film’s overall theme.

Silver Linings Playbook

Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro get a little crazy in this difficult love story

Director David O. Russell (‘The Fighter’, ‘Three Kings’) is no stranger to telling stories that deal with life’s trials and tribulations. By not shying away from difficult themes, his body of work is all the better. That he is able to weave a compelling love story between such neurotic characters is testimony to his directing abilities. Numerous of use of odd angles close ups on the characters during key moments in the movie accentuates the fact that the characters are constantly dealing with their individual neurosis during these moments. Indeed – ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ is gaining solid Oscar steam in Hollywood, chalking up numerous nominations that are considered the traditional Academy Awards marking posts.

O. Russell has a knack of bringing together seemingly disparate actors into his movies and directing them to great success. How else can you explain the chemistry between Cooper and Lawrence? Cooper is now considered one of the genuine contenders for ‘Best Actor’ in this year’s Academy Awards. Which is understandable as the actor, best known for his comedic roles skilfully portrayed someone who seems to always be struggling to move away from the brink of a breakdown. Lawrence, who caused a stir for her quietly strong portrayal of Katniss Everdeen in ‘Hunger Games’ was also brilliant. Her performance added depth to a character that could easily have been the typical ‘pretty female lead’.

Special mention has to go to Robert De Niro. He plays Pat Sr. a man who like his son has the burden of living with a psychological problem. De Niro continues his recent weird career tangent of playing strong supporting roles. His anxiety laden portrayal of a gambling addict with OCD is truly impressive.  His character added another layer to an already rich story brimming with delicious plot details.

This movie is definitely worth the effort of emotional investment. If all romantic comedies were of this quality, we might actually start recommending more rom-coms.

‘Silver Linings Playbook’ opens in theatres 10 January 2013