Silver Linings Playbook
(2012 – Director: David O. Russell Cast: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence)
This is why we go to the movies. As much glitz and glam Hollywood pours on us, sometimes seeing a truly complex human drama filled with spirit does the soul good. Silver Lingings Playbook is the kind of movie with a lasting impression that makes me thankful for the opportunities in my life, and thankful for the power of cinema.
David O. Russell took what could have been a very static uninteresting story, and put passion and heartbreak behind every character’s eyes making Silver Linings Playbook one of the best films of the year. Pat (Bradley Cooper) starts out heading home from a mental institution with his parents as he struggles to work on his bipolar personality. His goal is to get his cheating wife back despite a restraining order she filed against him. Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) is a sensual widow, with attitude to spare, who literally jogs right into his life prodding him until he finally gives her some attention.
Both have some mental illness issues, but that’s just scratching the surface. They are two broken souls longing for companionship after some horrible heartbreak. Sounds typical right? Two hearbroken people fall in love? Not quite that simple. Not with Pat’s crazy obsession with communicating with his wife, Nikki. Not with Pat’s sports obsessed family and his disgruntled therapist. Pat constantly looks for a solution and strategy to his issues. It’s during his breakdowns that we get the most beautiful glimpse inside Pat’s personality. He truly doesn’t want to have issues. He wants to be ok more than anything, but his blunt honesty, lack of self confidence brought on by his wife, and his parents lifestyle keep tripping him up.
It’s easy to see that Tiffany isn’t like Nikki. As an audience of course we want Pat to realize that, despite Tiffany’s obvious flaws, she’s the kind of damaged goods Pat needs. It’s seeing Pat’s awareness to take advantage of what’s been given to him that’s inspiring. Most of this film is heartbreaking as we watch someone try to mentally put back together a normal life. But what is normal? Everyone in this film has a broken life. It shows that all of us, no matter how great our lives are, are fractured in our own ways. Being able to look at people’s fractures and accept them for who they are and helping them to heal and repair is what’s important in this life. It’s what friendship is about. It’s what love is about. Pat gives us just a glimpse of the emotionally damaging relationship him and Nikki had. Nikki may have been stable, but she never gave Pat the proper attention and dedication he needed. Pat’s relationship with his dad (Robert De Niro) may have been the most interesting relationship in this film. De Niro knocks it out of the park as he struggles to accept Pat, put things from the past behind him, and mend a broken relationship. He wants to see Pat turn out fine, but fails to see exactly what Pat needs.
Tiffany knows what dedication and pain looks and feels like. She sees something inside of Pat that makes her want to help him, but realizes that she needs plenty of help herself. Pat and Tiffany’s relationship is electrifying on screen. The subtext behind all their lines is incredible and is what pushes Cooper and Lawrence’s performances into greatness.
The best thing about Silver Linings Playbook is the reversal of brokenness. It starts out as Pat’s story about how he has the issues and struggles to fit in with society but by the end of the film, once Pat finds companionship with Tiffany, we start to see everyone else’s struggles. The last act of the film, Pat is the steady hand. He’s the one keeping the family together. He’s the one who keeps the ridiculous dance routine alive.
Sure we all want to see a happy ending, but honestly I would have been happy ending the film with Pat and Tiffany’s dance routine. It represented their personality perfectly. It was messy, quirky, and jolting. You can’t help but smile during that routine.
Russell has such a magnetic touch in this film. It’s very similar stylistically to The Fighter, but more focused and energetic. His use of music in the film is spot on and helps unravel these characters. The biggest difference between SLP and The Fighter is that SLP has a flawed main character you root for the entire time to overcome adversity. The Fighter has plenty of adversity, but lacks a main character you can cheer for.