I think we so often get caught up in this state of negativity and it’s a poison like nothing else.Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Release Date: November 16th, 2012 | Director: David O. Russell
Silver Linings Playbook follows the story of a man named Pat who has just been checked out of a mental institution and is now living with his parents back in the house that he grew up in. After being checked out, all Pat wants to do is return to teaching at the local high school and reunite with his wife, who truly wants nothing to do with him. One night, while Pat reunites with some old friends for dinner, he meets a woman named Tiffany who he is immediately confused by. She seems to want to date him, but also claims that she is still married to her husband who passed away. As Pat and Tiffany spend more time together, Pat finds that maybe moving forward with his life is more important than rebuilding the past.
I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. I know that there really was no reason for me to be surprised by this movie as both Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence were nominated for Oscars for this movie and Lawrence even won, but I suppose that my skepticism in the whole Oscar nomination process led to my belief that this movie wouldn’t be as good as it could’ve been. I was wrong. I know this was based on a book and I do plan to read the book eventually, but I was drawn to this movie for the discussion that it has about mental illnesses. Pat suffers from undiagnosed bipolar disorder and his father suffers from a mild to moderate case of OCD. Watching this movie didn’t make me feel like the director and screenwriter were trying too hard to make this movie about mental health, but rather, I felt like it was a love story between two people who needed each other to help themselves feel mentally energized and healthy. It was very interesting to watch the dynamics between both characters and how their relationship benefits each other.
While Bradley Cooper is a talented actor in his own right, I felt like any scene that he had with Robert de Niro was this power struggle between the two of them. It felt like one of them was supposed to be the focus but the audience almost wanted to focus on the other. I don’t really think that this is a bad thing, instead, I think that it gives a perspective on their relationship that would’ve normally happened if these two actors weren’t so powerful in their own right. I felt the same about any scene that Bradley Cooper shared with Jennifer Lawrence as well. They’re both such powerful actors that I couldn’t figure out who I was more invested in and I think that David O. Russell deserves a kudos for this. He cast actors with such a strong presence and he knew how to use them to create a dynamic that the audience was interested in instead of overwhelming them.
Since this is an adaptation, I would normally talk about the strength of this film as an adaptation but I really can’t at the moment because I haven’t read the book, so instead, I want to talk about the strength of this film as a film. The screenwriters were phenomenal. I didn’t really think that there was a scene that didn’t contribute to the story or the characterization in any way. As this is a love story, the audience has to want to root for the two romantic interests to end up together. The most natural way for this to happen with two characters who were still hung up on their exes is by having them think that they’re working towards getting their exes back. I will admit that I found this whole concept a little cliched, but since I didn’t think that this was the main plot of the story, it didn’t really bother me. The plot focus is watching Pat and Tiffany learn to function in their new reality. For Pat and Tiffany to grow comfortable in their new reality, they had to have someone to depend on and so they chose to depend on each other, thus falling in love. This all happened so naturally that I commend the screenwriters for everything they did.
Overall, I very much enjoyed this movie. The actors embodied their characters in a way that made me believe that I was watching the story of two very real people. The tensions between Pat and his dad made for a riveting B plot and I’m glad that this movie portrays bipolar disorder in a way that doesn’t feel overdramatized for cheap thrills. This movie reminds us that people with mental illnesses can live wonderful lives surrounded by friends, family, and romantic partners. Overdramatizing illnesses can often contribute to the idea that having a mental disorder makes you unlovable and that’s a dangerous message to promote and I’m thrilled that this movie stayed away from that message. I do have to take a point off of my rating for the heavy reliance on a cliche but it was still done well. I recommend this movie for anyone looking for a different type of romantic dramedy.