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Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

| January 3, 2013 | 0 Comments

As Silver Linings Playbook opens, Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) is just coming out of a mental institution.  He is bipolar and has been released to the care of his parents.  His reason for being in the institution is pretty simple, not only does he have a mental illness, but some time ago he caught his wife in the shower with another man and nearly beat the man to death.  Yet, he is confident that everything can be worked out.  As he is returning home, we can see that he still has some work to do, then we meet his family.

At home, we understand some of his tension.  His father Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro), is so rabidly obsessed with The Philadelphia Eagles that he has been banned from attending the games because he got into fights with other fans.  He is also out of work and has taking up a bookmaking operation to make money.  That means that he is also obsessed with good luck omens and charms.  There’s an oddity to the father-son relationship here.  Both are suffering from mental instabilities.  The marker of sanity in this odd pairing is Dolores (Jacki Weaver), the mother who stands in the middle and tries to land both of them at a measure of reason.

Pat, the son,  is determined to get back together with his wife.  She has a restraining order against him that he seems to regard without interest.  Those who love Pat want him to move on and it seems a possibility when he meets his friend’s sister-in-law, a widow named Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence).  She’s beautiful, sexy, but unpredictable.  Once a sex addict, we can still see the mournful crisis in her eyes as she makes a strange and often very funny courtship with Pat.  She suggests sex, he says no.  He can’t be unfaithful to his wife even though she has a restraining order against him.  It just wouldn’t be right, yet looking at Tiffany in her tight black outfit, few would object.

What comes of this story (and I haven’t given anything away) is that it is about a handful of characters who want desperately to get over the pains that ail them and get on to something better.  That’s a relief, most characters in movies wallow in their problems until the antagonist is dead.  Not here, this is a smart human drama that looks its characters square in the eye and doesn’t ask us to pity them, only to look into their souls and see that despite the eccentricities, they aren’t that different from the rest of us.

What David O. Russell, the writer/director manages to do with this story is something short of miraculous.  He takes a father and some relationship and manages to mend it by means of a football bet and a dance contest.  How these two elements come together in the mending of their ways, is best left  for you to discover.  What lies underneath the relationship is the suggestion that a man who has just been released from an institution is just as certifiable as some of your more rabid football fans.  Like the obsessed fan of the little-seen movie Big Fan, Pat’s father is a man who has cleaned out large portions of his life to make room for his beloved Eagles

He also takes the case of mental illness and manages to avoid making it fluffy and cute.  There is no attempt to make fun of his condition.  He makes a very approachable and sometimes very funny comedy that does always work but never bores you or insults your intelligence.  That comes from the casting of smart actors.  Here is Bradley Cooper, an actor that we’ve come to know since The Hangover and puts him in the role of a man that never asks us to like him or to pity him.  He isn’t afraid to look like a jerk.  Also, the wonderful Jennifer Lawrence, the star of The Hunger Games who looks and acts differently than we’ve seen her before.  She is more open, sexier, and somewhat sadder.  This is her best performance.  Yet, the best in the movie is Robert De Niro as Pat Sr.  Here is an actor we’ve watched with such familiarity that he could be a member of our own family and he fits this role so perfectly that he seems to have been there for years.

As human comedies go, Silver Linings Playbook gets the job done.  It doesn’t always work.  There are some slow patches, and the movie takes its time getting off the ground, but once it does it becomes the kind of winning comedy that you are glad you spent time with.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2012) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy, Drama