Silver Linings Playbook was a film I only ever really wanted to see because of the actors playing the leads and that it was directed by David O. Russell, who directed The Fighter. For my partner she was desperate to see this due to its look into the sufferings of people with mental illness and how they internally struggle to overcome obstacles many of us don't see. The story to me didn't seem entirely interesting but I was more than happy to give it a watch and to see how some top actors could portray people with serious issues, especially Chris Tucker who is back on the big screen in a film that doesn't involve the words Rush Hour. By the end of the film I was gripped into the relationships, the illnesses, the conflicts, the disillusions, the performances, and most of all; the story that left me leaving the cinema with a big smile on my face.
The story centres on Pat, a former school teacher who was placed into a mental institute after beating his wife's lover to a pulp. 8 months later and the doctors are happy he can try life on the outside again and off he goes with his Mother to move back home. When Pat gets back home he unveils to his family his plan of action to help beat his illness. First off is to drop all medication, second is to get fit, and third is to prove to his wife he is better again and is willing to take her back. The problem though is that his wife has moved on, she's frightened of him and his unpredictability. Restraining orders are set out against him meaning he can't go near any of the people he may have offended, and that is a lot. During his rehabilitation he goes for dinner at one of his closest mates, the main reason being because he sometimes sees Pat's wife and he wants to get a message across. Whilst at dinner he meets his friend's sister-in-law, Tiffany who has got as many problems as he has. Her husband was killed and ever since she has resorted to sleeping with many different men so she doesn't feel lonely. Tiffany sees something she likes in Pat and wants to become his friend but she can only persuade Pat when she tells him she can get a note to his wife. Pleased to hear this Pat is quick to become friends but there is a catch; he has to be Tiffany's dance partner at a competition coming up. Accepting it in order to get what he wants, Pat learns to become closer to his new friend and find new ways to control his temper, ways his family, friends, and doctors don't agree with, by befriending a woman with as many emotional constraints as he has.
The story is very dry and very simple. It isn't one that is going to bend your mind in many different directions. It is more of a character study into two very different characters with the same emotional problems. The performances in the film really add to the relationships that drive this story. Bradley Cooper is brilliant at Pat, performing in a very different way to which we are used to seeing him. Jennifer Lawrence is fantastic as Tiffany who in facial expressions, delivery of dialogue, and dress sense really highlights a troubled mind. Robert De Niro is also on good form as Pat Senior, a man so obsessed with his local football team that his superstitions are getting out of hand. And finally, and something I never thought I'd say, even Chris Tucker is pretty good in his performance as Pat's mate who continually manages to con his way out of the mental home. The performances really are ace but the direction and writing by David O.Russell are also spot on. The story is predictable but the dialogue and plot threads are so well done that you're too invested to care. One of my favourite scenes was with Pat fighting at a football game in a rowdy brawl only for it to cut to a lone figure in Tiffany waiting to rehearse their dance. The direction here really added to the feel.
The film builds to an emotionally pleasing climax. The B story, with Pat Snr's OCD and gambling problems, drive us to this end. His addiction leads him to gamble on his son at this competition, even though he disagrees with his reasons for doing it. Pat Snr shows as many mental illness elements his son does but is never judged like his son. Pat calls this in an opening exchange with his doctor where he states, 'my Father beats up many at a football game and is banned for life, I beat a guy who I catch sleeping with my wife and I'm labelled insane', I thought this line was brilliant as it really highlights his frustrations and to how he is more similar to his Father than either of them think. All of this builds in the second half and once it does you breeze through to the end as it really does captivate you, however the first half is a little slow, and I was willing it to move on a little quicker. It does establish the characters well but, in the first half mainly, it was really missing a Christian Bale type character like out of Russell's previous film The Fighter. That being said thought the second act is so good, a high point being a scene in Pat's family home where all the characters are involved, that the qualms I had with the first half were instantly forgotten.
This won't be everyone's cup of tea. It explores themes that aren't always explored in these types of films, and it does it in a slightly comedic way. I have seen it be billed by some people as a romantic comedy; I can assure you now it is not. It is a drama with some black comedy involved. If anything the comedy mainly comes from the bluntness of the two lead characters as they both struggle to cope in social situations. It isn't supposed to be a comedy it is more a light-hearted take on a rather serious matter. Silver Linings Playbook is a very different film from ones I have previously seen this year. I would highly recommend it and ask you to go in with no judgement. If you sit down and enjoy it you will be guaranteed to leave with a smile on your face as it shows you no matter what your troubles there is always a silver lining.
Pros: The performances, direction, script, and character relationships that catch your attention.
Cons: The first half is a little slow.
8 / 10
Top 10 of 2012 so far:
1. The Dark Knight Rises 10 / 10
2. Argo 9 / 10
3. Skyfall 8.5 / 10
4. Silver Linings Playbook 8 / 10
5. The Hunger Games 8 / 10
6. Snow White And The Huntsman 8 / 10
7. Avengers Assemble 7.5 / 10
8. Looper 7.5 / 10
9. Ted 7.5 / 10
10. 21 Jump Street 7.5 / 10