Silver Linings Playbook
Silver Linings Playbook, 2012, USA
When Pat (Bradley Cooper) is released from the mental hospital into the care of his parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver), he is eager to continue his recovery and make amends with his estranged wife, Nikki (Brea Bee). Pat has bipolar disorder and severe anger issues, and he’s reluctant to stay on his medication. He meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a recent widow who also struggles with mental illness and coped with the loss of her husband through sex. Through Tiffany, Pat sees a way to contact Nikki, and they gradually develop a friendship. To his surprise, Tiffany ends up being good for Pat.
The film itself is a romantic comedy/drama and it is the best one I’ve seen in quite some time. Mental illness can be a touchy subject, and there’s a fine line to walk when it comes to writing and performing mentally ill characters. One does not want to risk offending people or making a mockery out of severe illnesses. Director David O. Russell, Cooper and Lawrence tackle the subject with great respect and sensitivity. Never did I feel like the lead actors were making a mockery of mental illness and I felt that their performances were genuine. Both actors deserve Oscar nominations, though I have a feeling that Cooper may be left out based solely on the strength of the Best Actor field this year. Lawrence has a shot at winning her first Oscar. I truly felt for both characters (especially Tiffany), and Cooper and Lawrence had fantastic chemistry. Without talented actors, this film would have fallen apart.
I also thought that De Niro was very good as Pat’s father. Through his father, the audience gets a sense of where Pat may have inherited his illness from. His father seemed to have undiagnosed OCD, and other illnesses are hinted at. The fact that he’s gone his entire life seemingly without treatment, and the fact that it looked to continue to go untreated was a small tragedy within the film. The danger of undiagnosed mental illness is a theme in this film. Pat almost killed a man because of his violent episode and his father gambles under the pretense that certain behaviors will ensure that his football team wins. Both behaviors are destructive, but in very different ways.
Russell has crafted a film that will, hopefully, open up a lot of discussion about mental illness in society and how society itself views mental illness. The film is a running commentary of how society views people who are mentally ill, as time and time again the lead characters are treated poorly because of their illness, or seen as a sounding board for others. But, Russell also makes us laugh at some very uncomfortable moments. Mental illness is an uncomfortable topic and humour can be a great icebreaker.
Silver Linings Playbook was a very funny, sweet little film. Check it out for the poignant story, masterful direction and memorable performances from the cast.