SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
By Gary Murray
Starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert DeNiro
Based on the novel by Matthew Quick
Written and directed by David O. Russell
Running time 122 min
MPAA Rating R
Selig Film Rating Matinee
Mental illness has been used almost since the beginnings of cinema, from just about every genre from horror to comedy. People with inner problems seem to become a reflection of coping in our modern society. The latest to take on the idea is the Prozac romantic comedy Silver Linings Playbook.
The film starts with Pat (Bradley Cooper). He is in a mental health facility after his wife has left him and his world collapsed. Struggling to keep his mind together, he is given pill after pill which he detests. He has made friends with another inmate Danny (Chris Tucker). Danny believes that he is released when it is that he has just escaped.
Pat’s mother (Jacki Weaver) takes Pat back home. There, we see what may be the origins of his lack of sanity. Dad (Robert DeNiro) is an obsessive compulsive Eagles fan with game day rituals and scoring good luck hexes. The reason he watches games at home is that he is banned from coming to the stadium. He is not pleased that his grown son is back in the family fold, it may mess up his positive voodoo to Eagles victories. In the world of SLP, the nut does not far from the tree.
Pat starts to try to adjust to his new life but he still has a grand plan of winning back his wife. He begins an exercise regiment and comes across grieving young widow Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence). She experienced her own break-down and has developed a reputation in the neighborhood.
Living in the back of her parents’ house, Tiffany has turned part of her living space into a dance studio. Much like Pat uses running, she uses ballroom dancing to keep her on an even keel. But, in order to compete, she needs a partner. She sees Pat as that partner.
Tiffany and Pat make a deal. If Pat will be her partner in an upcoming dance competition, Tiffany will deliver a letter to his estranged wife. Before one can whisper Strictly Ballroom, we know were these two are headed.
In the world of Silver Linings Playbook, everyone seems to have mental problems which infers that nobody is truly sane. The only difference between those outside and inside the asylum is a court order.
In one scene, Pat is upset with the book A Farewell to Arms and how it ends, ranting to his family in the middle of the night. The song “My Cherie Amour” sends him into a rage. Those moments become the truest beats of the film, showing the long, twisted and potted path to sanity.
One of my biggest problems with the film was in the casting. Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper are too far apart in age to make a believable romantic couple. The almost decades stretch between their ages gives an almost pedophilic feel to the proceedings. While are both perfect as individuals, together they come across more as creepy and sentimental.
The thing is that both the leads are wonderful, just not wonderful together. Jennifer Lawrence shows that she can command the stage like a performer much more seasoned. She is bright and bitter, sly and cunning but with a heart mostly in the right place. Bradley Cooper proves that he is much more than a pretty face but a guy who can carry a complicated acting role. It is just like puzzle pieces from different boxes, they may fit but they do not belong.
Chris Tucker has a very small part in this film but nails his performance to the walls. As a fellow inmate in the mental health facility, he just wants out and does whatever it takes to escape. It is as good as the performance in The Fifth Element, which vaulted him from obscurity.
The film is screen written and directed by David O. Russell the auteur of The Fighter and Three Kings. Here he explores the family dynamic much like he did in The Fighter, showing how elements affect relation bonds. The film is more about the building and bonding of groups than a flick about crazy ballroom dancers.
Silver Linings Playbook shows the serpentine path to wellness, the turns and roadblocks one has to endure in order to find a semblance of sanity in a world that doesn’t readily lend it self to sanity. The film goes Simply Ballroom with the dancing sequences and ending from plot central. Everyone knows where the journey will end–the fun is just getting there.