Dir: David O. Russell, 2012
Pat Solitano has just been released from an eight-month stay at a psychiatric clinic after a violent altercation with his wife’s lover which resulted in his diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Pat now feels more than ready to get himself together and reunite with his wife but must enlist the help of young widow Tiffany Maxwell, who also has her own share of problems.
Similar to 2011’s Love and Other Drugs, Silver Linings Playbook is a romantic-comedy that experiments in illness but unlike the former, knows that the illness does not write the character and therefore stays in relevance to the story, providing for a much more enjoyable and audience-friendly film. While Silver Linings Playbook certainly has clichéd subject matter, it’s director David O. Russell who once again successfully infuses the material with genuine charisma, breathing new life into the boy-meets-girl story and giving it substance.
Of course, the film’s success lives and dies on the outstanding chemistry between Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. Cooper, who we all know is a superb comedian, plays the balance between his character’s light and dark side respectably but unfortunately loses interest as a protagonist because of his lengthy pining for his absent, clearly-uninterested ex-wife. Around this point is where Jennifer Lawrence steps forward more and kicks her performance into high gear, exhibiting soulful technique for a woman of only twenty-two years of age.
Russell reuses the dysfunctionally-functional family motif which is glued together by blue-collar couple Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro. Weaver portrays a tender mother in an interesting contrast to her breakthrough part in Animal Kingdom and De Niro is the short-sighted but amicable father in a role that firmly establishes the bar that De Niro should be hitting when playing light characters. Rounding out the unwavering supporting cast is a surprisingly amusing Chris Tucker – surely this would have guaranteed 2012 an apocalypse of some sort?
Silver Linings Playbook is a showcase of sensational performances but David O. Russell deserves the credit for reinvigorating another classic tale. Maybe Russell’s work won’t be hailed by generations to come but the man remains a captivating filmmaker who blends the subversive with the familiar.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆