Every now and then you stumble across a cinematic diamond in amongst a month of duds that gives you faith in cinema again. During the month of November 2012, the movie that proved itself superior to the rest was Silver Linings Playbook. Starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, David O. Russell’s dramedy is uniquely told, charming and really really funny.
Bradley Cooper plays Pat Solitano, a former teacher who has just finished an eight month stint in a psychiatric hospital, after being diagnosed as bipolar. When he moves back in with his parents (played by Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro), his mind is set on returning his life to normal. Reconciliation with his ex-wife proves to be tricky though, when it becomes clear there is more than a restraining order standing between Pat and his goal. The challenges only intensify when he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a woman with issues of her own. She offers to help him contact his ex-wife in exchange for a favour, but will their unexpected bond be exactly what the pair needs?
Based on the novel by Matthew Quick, Silver Linings Playbook is worthy of our attention for a number of reasons. For starters, the cast is excellent. Lawrence, at 22 years old, plays a widow with a surprising amount of maturity, and Bradley Cooper has never been better. It’s the ensemble around them which really knocks this one out of the park though, especially Robert De Niro as Pat’s obsessive compulsive, sports enthusiast father.
They say the best way to explore the experiences of an unusual demographic is to make light of it, and Silver Linings Playbook does exactly that for mental illness. There’s more to the film than just Pat’s condition. In fact, if we learn anything it’s that everyone has their own issues and craziness to deal with.
In a movie about the fragile state of the human mind, at no point does the story look down upon mental illness, or demean the characters for feeling the way they do. Gentle mockery? Yes. Irony? Lots of it. Is it over the top? Not at all. And during a film-making era where gross-out comedy and outlandish tales have become the norm, Silver Linings Playbook is extremely subtle by comparison. The film takes most of its humour from the quirks of the characters and the timing of the delivery; a complete turn around from Cooper’s most famous role in the comedy The Hangover.
For reasons I cannot fathom, this tale of self acceptance and the realisation that life does not always go according to plan has not been advertised in the UK as much it should have been. So if you are looking for a film that has quietly weaved its way into the hearts of audiences who wanted a break from Twilight mania, Silver Linings Playbook should be the one you see.
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