Silver Linings Playbook – 2012
This was a better movie than I remember it being. I first saw this film when it was in theaters back in 2012. I remember it being slow and boring, with characters to whom I couldn’t relate. I thought the plot was contrived and unrealistic. But after watching it a second time, I have changed my opinion. The movie actually had some pretty spectacular acting, and some great directing. It had a smart script and I really enjoyed it this time around.
The movie starred Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as people with mental problems, people who other people were afraid to be around. Cooper plays Patrizio “Pat” Solitano Jr. He is severely bipolar with a tendency for dangerous violent outbursts. He has no control of his own emotions and no filter on his mouth. Lawrence plays Tiffany Maxwell, a young widow dealing with clinical depression. The film begins as Pat’s mother is taking him out of a mental institution. Pat had caught his wife cheating on him, and had nearly beaten her lover to death.
Now, as Pat gains his freedom, he stops taking his medication because he doesn’t like how it makes him feel. He is obsessed with winning back his wife’s affections, but must keep a distance from her because of a restraining order. He meets Tiffany through his friend Ronnie and his wife Veronica, played by John Ortiz and Julia Stiles. There seems to be an instant connection between Pat and Tiffany.
Pat must also deal with his parents, Pat Sr. and Dolores, played by Robert De Niro and Jackie Weaver. His mother is the consummate peacemaker of the household, but Pat Sr. is extremely obsessive compulsive, and has his own issues with violent outbursts. He is also a compulsive gambler. Three more characters round out the main cast. Chris Tucker plays Danny, one of Pat’s former inmates at the mental hospital, Shea Whigham playing Jake, Pat’s brother, and Anupam Kher as Pat’s therapist and friend.
The main interest of the film is the romance that blossoms between Pat and Tiffany, of course, and Cooper and Lawrence had a great on-screen chemistry. I especially liked Cooper’s performance, though it was Lawrence who took home the Oscar for Best Actress. It is important to note that Silver Linings Playbook was nominated for a total of eight awards, and was the first film since 2004’s Million Dollar Baby that was nominated for the Big Five Awards at the Academy Awards, which includes Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay. It was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress.
The film’s depiction of mental illness was very realistically portrayed. Cooper had all the right mannerisms for someone with bipolar disorder, especially when it is shown that he is not taking his medication. He had the fast and rambling speech, the disregard for other people. The frightening violence, the confusion, and even the way he was never quite in touch with reality, was so perfectly played. When he accidentally hits his mother and gets into a fist fight with his father, he is inspired to start taking his medications. Cooper really impressed me. Well done Bradley!
So Pat is obsessed with getting back together with his wife Nikki, played in the film’s climax by Brea Bee. Tiffany agrees to ignore the restraining order and pass a letter from Pat to Nikki. In exchange Pat agrees to take part in a dance competition in which Tiffany wants to compete. The two work together, knowing that they will never win, but just wanting to compete. Then things get serious when Pat Sr.’s compulsive gambling expands a football bet to include the dance competition. Not only do the Philadelphia Eagles have to win against the Dallas Cowboys, but Pat and Tiffany have to get a score of at least 5.0 in the competition. If either of these wagers are lost, Pat Sr. will lose all his money.
With so much riding on his dancing, Pat is nervous. But to make matters worse, Nikki actually shows up to watch the competition. And all that brings me to the film’s worst flaw, and by that I mean its ultimate predictability. We all know what’s going to happen, don’t we? Pat realizes that Tiffany is the woman he truly loves and not his ex-wife. But right before the end, she sees him talking to Nikki. She thinks he has succeeded in winning her back and leaves the dance hall in tears. But of course, he is really just telling Nikki that he doesn’t want her back. He chases after Tiffany and declares his love and the two of them share their first kiss in the street. Sadly, you see it coming a mile away and there is no surprise, no chance of failure.
But really, this is a minor flaw. I enjoyed watching the movie. The script made up for its problems with its all too realistic depictions of bipolar disorder and clinical depression. In my life, I have known people struggling with those illnesses, and I know the signs when I see them. Cooper and Lawrence were fantastic, animated, and yet not too over-the-top. The film’s director, David O. Russell, should be commended for his efforts. I’m glad I got to give this film a second chance.