Silver Linings Playbook (2012) ★ ★ ★ ★
It’s not the catchiest title for a Hollywood film, but Silver Linings Playbook is a crowd pleaser. David O. Russell’s rom-com with a dark twist conveys the chaos of close relationships with a playful yet compelling story. There are moments to laugh, there are moments to cry – and if you can’t handle a soppy love story, there are pockets of spiteful witty dialogue slashing through the romance.
Silver Linings Playbook follows the rehabilitation of Pat (Bradley Cooper) after a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. After his wife has an affair with a fellow teacher at their school, his rage gets out of control. Apart from a few brief flashbacks, the film is primarily set after his release from rehab and is a realistic portrayal of his attempt at healing.
In his neighbourhood lives Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), another slightly mad character. When she promises to help Pat win back his wife, he finds himself training for a ballroom dance contest in an effort to stay under control. His quest to rehash his marriage leads him to desperate measures and it’s only when the police get involved that things start calming down.
The setting is a calm, picturesque neighbourhood in Philadelphia yet the story is far from homely. It’s not so much an epic plot as a great selection of characters with unpredictable dynamics. Including the moment when Pat catapults Hemmingway’s A Farewell To Arms smashing a full glass window to his parents’ dismay. During the whole film, it seems as though those with a medical diagnosis become saner and the rest of the party delves into madness.
Comic relief and witty dialogue comes from acting veterans Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver (as Pat’s parents) in a frenetic family dialogue with refreshing emotional sincerity. For a romantic comedy, the dialogue is choppy and free-flowing yet each character has their own voice.
The storyline flows naturally through the day-to-day crises of a rehabilitated mental illness patient with an appropriate sensitivity but also a ridiculousness that ensues hilarity. Therapy appointments are informal and frustrating but the bond between Pat and Tiffany is what truly resonates in the film. Her cheeky smile is endearing and his eccentricities steps up the lively dynamics of the script.
Little by little, we discover insecurities about each character which shed light on the complexities of a modern life. Russell brands the protagonists as heroes, although they come across as a little crazy, and shows that we all have our moments of weakness. Silver Linings Playbook is both entertaining and endearing – a great combination of human drama and new-school humour.