Managing Executive Editor
“Silver Linings Playbook” is an unconventional romantic comedy somehow fitted into the traditional rom-com mold–and it works.
The film stars Bradley Cooper, in one of his most interesting and unique roles to date, the always lovely Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro and Jackie Weaver.
Cooper plays an undiagnosed bipolar patient who spends eight months in a mental health facility for anger issues, is released, and immediately wants to reconcile with his wife, Nikki.
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Jennifer Lawrence plays a depressed twenty-something who is still getting over the death of her husband.
At only 22 years old, it’s a little difficult to believe Lawrence’s character is already widowed, but the film helps the audience look past it.
Robert DeNiro and Jackie Weaver play Cooper’s completely neurotic parents.
David O. Russell directed this film, and it’s no surprise he adds a dash of familial and social dysfunction into his characters’ relationships since they pervade most of his films.
Russell was at the helm of 2004’s quirky “I Heart Huckabees” and on a more serious note, “The Fighter” in 2010 which earned Christian Bale his first Oscar.
The film starts with Cooper’s character, Pat, getting released from a mental health institution in Baltimore and being brought back home.
Immediately, we understand this isn’t a conventional role for Cooper–his character suffers from fits of rage and bursts of elation, the hallmarks of bipolar disorder.
He strives to reassure everyone he’s fine, but the rocky assimilation back into his family is better said than done.
His father, Pat Sr. (delightfully played by Robert DeNiro), is a diehard Philadelphia Eagles fan.
He’s obsessive compulsive and a risky gambler, who loves his son dearly, but oftentimes can’t control his own emotions.
Clutching an Eagles handkerchief and demanding his son watch football with him, Pat Sr. is as neurotic as his wife, Dolores (Jackie Weaver), whose constant nitpicking drives Pat even crazier than normal.
Pat is invited to dinner with his friend and his wife, where he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence, in a decidedly darker, more mature role).
They bond over the effects of depression and bipolar medication, and we can immediately see the chemistry between the two characters in the brief exchange of dark comedy.
Tiffany helps Pat communicate with his estranged wife (despite a restraining order) and Pat helps Tiffany as her partner in a ballroom dance competition.
On a deeper level, however, Pat is assisting Tiffany with her self-destructive loneliness and Tiffany is healing Pat of his anger issues.
They understand each other and they begin to fall in love with each other.
The film walks a tightrope with its performances–making a comedy out of people’s mental disorders can take on offensive stereotypes, but Russell and the rest of his acting ensemble handles it with grace, realism and humility.
The film doesn’t stray away from the harsh realities of life; in fact, it embraces them, making it a much more different breed of romantic comedy.
Russell’s deft hand humanizes his characters and the plot at hand, making it much more believable.
Every once in awhile, Lawrence overacts but she catches herself before it becomes too noticeable.
Cooper proved to be the most pleasant surprise because while his acting prowess has only ranged from a hungover party boy to a forgettable protagonist in 2011’s “Limitless,” his acting in “Silver Linings Playbook” was amazing.
It’s a fine line acting as a character with a mental disability, but he handles the character of Pat with an unexpected and welcomed dose of maturity.
My only gripe was the end of the film. I won’t go into specifics, but it falls right in line with the typical tropes of romantic comedies, and it could have kept more in line with Russell’s dark comedic theme he laid out at the beginning of the film.
The ending of a romantic comedy should be like a magic act–while the bunny will always be pulled out of the top hat in the end, the magician’s sleight of hand should trick the audience into thinking something else.
The director here could have pulled the metaphorical bunny out of the top hat, but an illusion or sleight of hand in the last act would have made the film’s end all that more satisfying.
Overall, the film has a little bit of everything for everyone. Between the mix of football and Desean Jackson jokes, ballroom dancing, comedy, drama, as well as the variety of actors, everyone can find something to like here.
The characters in the film are far from perfect, weaving back and forth from being likable to unlikable and back again, but the film shows that even those who are damaged and imperfect can still deserve a happy ending.
Whitney Cyr can be contacted at