‘Silver Linings Playbook’ Review: A refreshing cinematic experience

With eight Academy Award nominations under its belt, Silver Linings Playbook comes to audiences with high expectations. Thankfully the film lives up to its every nomination and offers a unique, heartfelt story in the modern world in the midst of an overwhelmingly large number of period pieces this holiday season.

Written and directed by David O. Russell (who recently received Oscar nominations for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay), Silver Linings Playbook closely examines the ins and outs of mental illness and its effect on both romantic and familial relationships. With a story based on the novel by Matthew Quick, Oscar-nominee Bradley Cooper plays Pat Solitano, Jr., a former substitute teacher who has just finished an eight-month court-ordered term in a mental hospital for a violent incident involving his bipolar disorder. Upon release Pat goes to live with his parents, and attempts to lead life with a positive attitude so that he may one day reconcile with his wife from whom he was estranged after the “incident.”

Photo: Jennifer Lawrence & Bradley Cooper, The Weinstein Company

Photo: Jennifer Lawrence & Bradley Cooper, The Weinstein Company

This romantic comedy-drama cleverly reveals bits and pieces of “the incident” so that the audience first sympathizes with Pat’s character before making judgements on his behavior. We see Pat trying to move forward and live positively, but eventually the truth comes to light as we see how he ended up in the mental hospital: he violently reacted to his wife’s infidelity, and has trouble coping with it and his conflicting feelings for her ever since.

Despite all of Pat’s ups and downs, he finds a way to befriend another troubled spirit in his neighborhood, the unpredictable young widow Tiffany (played by two-time Oscar-nominee Jennifer Lawrence). Their relationship is anything but orthodox, and is just as heartbreaking at times as it is hilarious. Tiffany is equally emotionally damaged and also finds solace in Pat that is at the same time reciprocated and denied. Their relationship grows into some sort of symbiosis, where they both need each other to move on in their lives.

The acting in the film is clearly one of its highest achievements, showcasing incredible talent from Cooper, Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker and Paul Herman. They clearly deserve every award nomination they received, and make the characters come to life in such an organic way that you feel like you are a fly on a real family’s wall the entire time. The supporting characters continue to grow alongside Pat, and deal unexpected surprises throughout the film.

Photo: Robert De Niro & Jacki Weaver, The Weinstein Company

Photo: Robert De Niro & Jacki Weaver, The Weinstein Company

Although the film has its comedic moments, Silver Linings certainly does not settle for complacency, but instead deals heavy-hitting blows from time to time to catch the audience off-guard. Following Pat through his struggles with his disorder, we see him go from his highest highs to his lowest lows, affecting those around him whether he realizes it or not. It is rewarding to see his progress as we are going along on this journey with him in his pursuit for a silver lining in everything, even though he often can be self-destructive. The plot might be in danger of becoming a cliché near the film’s end, but the clever writing of David O. Russell avoids such monotony by throwing in a few poignant moments of authentic dialogue to give the audience something truly unique yet satisfying.

Of all of the Oscar-nominated films for Best Picture this year, Silver Linings Playbook probably has the highest chance for multiple viewings, even though it might not be a typical frontrunner for the crown against the likes of Argo, Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty. It offers a little bit of everything: comedy, heartache, romance, struggle, grief, and hope. It’s an entertaining, refreshing film while at the same time offering something extra to get the mind thinking about what living life really means. There are not many films in this genre that can tout giving the audience that kind of send-off.

Silver Linings Playbook Grade: A

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