Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Silver Linings Playbook

Directed by David O. Russell, US, 2012

When films address the issue of mental illness, they often do so through the lens of tragedy – think of films such as Bergman’s “Through a Glass Darkly” (1961), Milos Forman’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975), or even Ron Howard’s “A Beautiful Mind” (2001), which far more sad and terrifying than uplifting.  Silver Linings Playbook starts out in a way that could easily go in the direction of its cinematic predecessors, but instead it changes course and addresses not the illness, but the recovery.

When we first meet Pat (Bradley Cooper), he is being released from a hospital after receiving court-ordered treatment for bi-polar disorder.  His life can be charitably described as a mess – he has restraining order preventing him from contacting his estranged wife and former employers.  He is prone to violent outbursts and delusions and has difficulty interacting with other people socially (symptoms, of course, of his illness).

At a dinner party arranged by a mutual friend, he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a widow and recovering sex addict.  After some awkwardness, they form a friendship, and Tiffany convinces Pat to be her partner in an upcoming dance competition.  The remainder of the film addresses their mutual recovery as they, often comically, lift each other along.

The performances by the rest of the cast (especially Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver) are top notch and the pacing of the film makes it feel a lot shorter than its already average run-time of two hours.  The only criticism I can think of the film is that the ending is wrapped up a bit too neatly – old Hollywood neatly.  However, in this age of dark edged movies it is actually refreshing to see a Hollywood movie that actually has a “Hollywood” ending.

You might like Silver Linings Playbook if: You are looking for a positive, well acted, charming, clever, and funny film about how friends and family can help us recover from issues such as loss and mental illness.

You might not like Silver Linings Playbook if: You demand a dark, realistic edge to the ending of every movie you see.

(c) 2013 D.G. McCabe

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