As Sigmund Freud said, “One is very crazy when in love.” Silver Linings Playbook delivers a little less than what its title suggests; but as a romantic comedy, it is enjoyable nonetheless. Adapted from Matthew Quick’s novel, this film by David O. Russell (The Fighter, I ♥ Huckabees) shines as a date movie.
Bradley Cooper leads with familiar, sun-kissed energy that made him the stereotypical guy-next-door in chick flicks (The Hangover I & II, Valentines Day) and Jennifer Lawrence flexes elegant moves in a genre new to her filmography (The Hunger Games, Winter’s Bone)… but in Silver Linings Playbook, the real show-stopper turns out to be Papa DeNiro.
Pat Junior (Cooper) is bipolar and after eight months in a treatment facility, leaves to recover at his folks. Despite the bad run with his estranged wife (that landed him there in the first place), Pat still loves her and believes that conquering his psychological demons will win her back. Tiffany (Lawrence) is a young widow nursing old wounds and idiosyncrasies of her own. Sparks fly when both meet at a party thrown by Pat’s BFF (played with finely tuned sensitivity by the underrated John Ortiz).
This is not an odd romantic pairing; but the emotional vicissitudes demanded of Pat’s role seem to fall short in its rough-hewn delivery and thus, weakening mental health themes in the finished cut. Fortunately, the silver lining lies in a strong lineup of supporting cast and Pat Senior (Robert DeNiro) shines as an un-diagnosed OCD with eccentric (but believably instinctive) superstitions about “good and bad jujus”.
Bulk of the film’s humor and depth (premised on psychological anxiety) comes from DeNiro and it is a truly nice surprise. I would love to see a sequel or TV-series patterned after his breakout performance in this film—spin-off of sorts. As Pat’s father, the idea that some of his neuroses may have imprinted on Pat adds a natural layer to the subplot—father and son dynamics.
At the end of Silver Linings Playbook, I left the cinema believing it was written with a heartfelt message nestled in its narrative. But the final output fell short, thus inviting criticisms about exaggerating stereotypes for the sake of a few laughs. The mental health industry has also responded with comments about inaccurate portrayals of bipolar behavior.
But like I said; for date movie material, it dazzles as cookie-cutter romcom with an edge. Block out the Oscar hype (nominated in eight categories) and watch with lowered expectations; Silver Linings Playbook might just grow on you. This feel good comedy is an entertaining peal of laughs and stands on its own merits.