silver linings playbook | my movie review

Posted on April 18, 2013

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silverlinings

There are comments about Silver Linings Playbook stating that it’s lovely to see a genuine portrayal of people with mental illness, that doesn’t stigmatise them. Normally people with mental illness are portrayed either so seriously unhinged that they are violent psychopaths who kill kill kill, or their issues are portrayed as such fluffy patronising twaddle that all they need is someone to care and look after them to make it all better.

Movies that are incredibly honest in their portrayal of mental illness are nothing short of powerful and emotional and Silver Linings Playbook is on a par with the likes of the classic Through a Glass Darkly which portrays a young woman whose grip on reality slips due to her mental illness, Sean Penn’s wonderful portrayal of an autistic father fighting for custody of his 7yr old daughter in I Am Sam, Russell Crowe’s brilliant John Nash in A Beautiful Mind, Jack Nicholson as a recluse with OCD in As Good as it Gets, Tarnation – a moving documentary by filmmaker Jonathan Caouette on his experiences growing up with a mother who suffered from schizophrenia, David Fincher’s wonderful Fight Club, and more recently Darren Aranofsky’s deeply disturbing Black Swan.

Silver Linings Playbook is David O Russell’s latest movie. He most recently gave us The Fighter starring Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg, and my favourite film of his, Three Kings, starring Clooney, Wahlberg and IceCube as soldiers on a mission to find gold in the wake of the Gulf War who end up giving themselves a far more important task.

The story of Silver Linings Playbook mainly revolves around two people – but along the route we take in their families too.
Pat [Bradley Cooper] has bipolar disorder, has been recently released from a mental institution and plans on mending the mess that he left behind with his ex-wife. Into his life steps Tiffany [Jennifer Lawrence], who comes with her own problems. She is a recent widower who has become unhinged by the whole experience. Both are shockingly honest with each other which makes for some very memorable exchanges onscreen. They decide to help each other, and in the process a healing takes place that is wonderful to behold – often very funny, sometimes quite moving.

When he finds out that Tiffany is in contact with his ex-wife he asks her to deliver a letter for him. In return he reluctantly agrees to be her partner in an upcoming dance competition. Now we’re not in Dirty Dancing territory here, and the “big move” isn’t quite as… let’s say… well executed as the iconic Jennifer Grey one, and this isn’t the moment when everything is alright because they win and all live happily ever after again. This just isn’t that kind of movie!

Silver Linings Playbook completely avoids being cheesy yet remains entertaining throughout thanks not only to the script [Russell’s first since I Heart Huckabees] but to the performances of the entire cast.

Cooper is on top form as Pat and never overplays his role as someone who has no “filter” between his brain and his mouth. Lawrence is wonderful and her chemistry with De Niro is a joy to watch. De Niro does some of his best work in years as Pat’s OCD father – his one-to-one with Pat near the end is one of the most sincere pieces of dialogue you’ll hope to see in a movie this year. It’s good to see Chris Tucker doing something other than Rush Hour sequels. This is his first role in 14 years that *isn’t* a Rush Hour movie! He lights up the screen in the few short scenes he has. Julia Stiles plays Tiffany’s sister who has “the life” [husband, kids, big house] yet seems all too perfect, whose husband loves escaping to his garage to thrash out to Megadeth and vent his frustrations at the life he has. All of them have some form of “issues” yet all of them seem… normal… in a way. None of it is over-exaggerated or played for laughs. There is amusement in it simply because on some level we can relate to them, and most of us will see a little of ourselves in one of these characters.
I think that’s the central message of this movie really, that everybody is a little unhinged in their own kind of way, and it never belittles any of that with cheap laughs or patronising set-ups.

Silver Linings Playbook far exceeded my expectations and is simply a joy to watch… and listen to. Who can argue with a soundtrack that gives us both Bob Dylan and Alabama Shakes?

 

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