Silver Linings Playbook’ a rom-com with bite
Claire Stephens | Wednesday, January 16, 2013
David O. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook” follows Pat, recently out of a medical hospital on plea bargain after beating his wife’s illicit lover nearly to death. Pat, who had long been undiagnosed for bipolar disorder, is determined to get in shape and get better to get his wife back, who now has a restraining order against him.
Back home, Pat’s worried parents urge him to take his medication and spend more time with them to heal his relationship with his football-obsessed father. Instead, he meets Tiffany through a mutual friend, who also struggles with mental illness after the death of her husband. Their awkward, quirky and sometimes inappropriate demeanors both attract and repel each other in this rom-com with bite.
Unafraid to be messy, stressful and frustrating, the film tackles real life problems by focusing on family, forgiveness, mental illness, life and love. “Silver Linings Playbook” draws in the audience to the characters and the family to make them feel like a part of the drama, helpless on the sidelines to stop everyone from descending into the slippery slope of past mistakes.
Often more driven by drama driven than by comedy, the film still retains a dry sense of humor of the awkward and socially inappropriate pair. Lawrence’s sharp, sassy, sometimes ruthless character is the perfect foil to Cooper’s hopeless, optimistic fixation on his wife. DeNiro, the obsessive, relentless father with football superstitions and gambling problems further complicates and limits Pat as he struggles to find his silver lining.
The movie is careful and insightful with its portrayal of mental illness – including OCD, bipolar disorder and depression – and mixes it with the struggles of living, coping and moving on. Every character is affected by the trails of family life and marriage, and the rest of the cast plays an important role in the story.
The film is able to cover issues of such weight without becoming melodramatic or clichÃ©, maintaining the romance in a realistic, well-paced way. It’s not opposite attraction, forbidden love or hopeless romance; perhaps their relationship is destined to be, but with truly challenging obstacles including a spouses, mental illness and family wounds.
“Silver Linings Playbook“ works so well due to the stellar performances by Cooper, Lawrence and DeNiro – perfect for the roles and delivering the quality of acting expected of them. The rest of the cast, including Chris Tucker and Julia Stiles, give the story believability and depth, and the film is not surprisingly nominated for multiple best ensemble cast awards.
Unlike most rom-coms or romance dramas that give away the ending in the trailer, “Silver Linings Playbook” creates moments of actual drama and suspense, especially at its close. The characters are so well developed and liked that the audience knows the fragility of their minds and fears for their wellbeing the high stakes of their actions. Though the ending was still fairly predictable, this rom-com takes the audience along for a ride most movies in the genre can’t hope to compete with.
Though it likely won’t win the Academy Award for Best Picture, “Silver Linings Playbook” is a great showcase for Cooper and Lawrence’s abilities to play both drama and humor convincingly to move a story. “Silver Linings Playbook” is an entertaining combination of both genres for both genders.
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The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.