Silver Linings Playbook

Dir: David O. Russell

Stars: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jacki Weaver & Robert De Niro

Director David O. Russell is no stranger to focussing on people with personal issues in his films. Indeed, Christian Bale won an Oscar for his portrayal of washed-up ex-boxer and cocaine addict Dicky Eklund in Russell’s last outing The Fighter. In Silver Linings Playbook he tackles the thorny topic of mental illness.

Pat (Cooper) is released from a mental institution into the care of his parents (De Niro and Weaver), determined to rebuild his life; save his marriage and get his job back. However, he finds it difficult to keep on the straight and narrow until he meets Tiffany (Lawrence), a young lady battling her own personal demons. They form an uneasy connection; Tiffany agreeing to help him secretly reconcile with his wife in exchange for being her dance partner in an upcoming competition. However, his father’s obsession with the Philadelphia Eagles and gambling threaten to put a spanner in the works.

Silver Linings Playbook could easily have ended up as a horrible mess. Let’s face it, the plot synopsis looks pretty uninviting on paper, but it is brought to life by some great acting, taught direction and clever scripting. The leading men could have easily dissolved into one-dimensional caricatures of the manic side of mental illness. Thankfully, and this is why Silver Linings Playbook works so well, their behaviour is beautifully moderated by the performances of Lawrence and Weaver. Indeed, it’s the interactions between all the characters which make this such a great film; making Silver Linings Playbook more than the sum of its parts.

Cooper and Lawrence bounce off each other; there is palpable chemistry between them. David O. Russell cleverly contrasts Pat’s mental instabilities with his father’s OCD, illustrating that many people have some form or degree of mental disorders; even if these are often accepted within society as eccentricities.

The script in peppered with smart and sassy dialogue, always reeling itself in before going too far. It is also very stylishly and artistically directed; there are some wonderful foreground/background portrait shots. The acting is universally good (even Chris Tucker?!) but Jennifer Lawrence stands out playing Tiffany, a girl who may have many problems, but is someone who you could easily fall in love with.

Silver Linings Playbook mixes drama and romantic comedy to produce an impeccably well judged, funny and emotional piece of cinema. The end is superb (bring tissues).

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