Editor’s Note: Allison’s spot-on review originally ran way back at the beginning of the month, but the film is opening wide today so we’re sharing it once again. Sharing is good.
Maybe we are all a bit crazy – whether we are lying to ourselves about the relationships we are in or why we believe holding a handkerchief or having the remote at a certain angle will determine the outcome of a game. But unlike most of us, Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper), has been deemed mentally unstable by both the court and his doctors at the mental institution we find him in at the start of Silver Linings Playbook.
Pat may seem fairly sane, albeit unflinchingly honest, but as we learn why he ended up in such a facility and watch him unravel at the sound of a certain song, it becomes clear that Pat is dealing with issues he may not be able to easily control with simple positive thinking. Pat is released to the care of his big-hearted mother, Dolores (Jacki Weaver), and his hot-headed father, Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro), and while their family dynamic is slightly dysfunctional, it is clear that they all truly care about one another.
Pat is trying to come to terms with his recent diagnosis of being bi-polar, a fact he had been unaware of his whole life until a recent incident with his wife, Nikki (Brea Bee), sparked his unraveling. But despite this set back, Pat is ready to start over, and it is this idea of making things right with Nikki and getting their “true love” back on track that keeps him going.
Pat’s therapist, Dr. Patel (Anupam Kher), recommends that Pat come up with a strategy to manage his emotions. As it becomes clear that reading and running are not keeping his outbursts in check, he encounters Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a young woman dealing with her own issues and the sudden end of her own marriage. The little sister of one of Nikki’s friends, Tiffany becomes the link Pat needs to get back in touch with his wife, but Tiffany demands Pat do her a favor in return. As these two push and challenge one another, they stumble across some realizations about not only themselves but also each other.
Filled with a slew of loveable and laughable supporting characters, from Pat’s friend from the institution, Danny (Chris Tucker), to his straight-laced parole officer (Dash Mihok), Silver Linings Playbook delivers an equal amount of heart and humor, deftly facilitating between the more touching moments to the laugh-out-loud ones. Just as he did with The Fighter, director David O. Russell takes audiences inside the lives of seemingly brash families and characters and uncovers the true affection and unconditional love they have for one another.
Cooper and Lawrence radiate off each other as they run both physically and mentally away from (and towards) each other, with him truly filling the shoes of a leading man while Lawrence reminds us why she caught so many people’s attention in Winter’s Bone. Silver Linings Playbook certainly proves that it takes many people to help a person find their way back, but sometimes it takes just one person who can truly recognize and meet the “crazy” in another to help that person live with, not just run from, one’s problems.
Upside: A moving story grounded in enough real moments and humor to keep it from feeling too heavy, memorable performances from both the leads and the supporting cast and Lawrence proving she can go toe-to-toe with De Niro in one of the film’s best scenes.
Downside: The various storylines highlighting Pat’s different relationships, which begin to unnecessarily distract from where the film resonates the most, the development of his relationship with Tiffany and Russell’s almost random close-ups, which start to take away from the flow of the story rather than add to it.
On the Side: Best known for his collaborations with Tim Burton, Danny Elfman takes a bit of a departure here by creating scored pieces that play to both the dramatic and more humor-filled moments of a film that’s very different from Burton’s more eccentric worlds.