Movie Review: Silver Linings Playbook- An Intriguing and Heartfelt Romantic Comedy that Revolves Around Mental Illness and Personal Acceptance

An odd relativist phrase states that truth is in the eye of the beholder and in the case of director David O. Russell’s new film Silver Linings Playbook that phrase could probably add that crazy is in the eye of the beholder. This idea of perception versus attitude plays a huge role in Russell’s film about mental illness, acceptance, and love especially for the protagonist Patrick (Bradley Cooper) who is struggling to cope with his life’s negative changes, his own bipolar temperament, and facing the risk of potential new happiness. As bold and darkly humorous Silver Linings Playbook sets out to be it’s difficult to get past the fact that for the latter half of the film it falls back into the Romantic Comedy formula. However, the exceptional focus David O. Russell has for each and every one of his characters as well as the unconventional and honest treatment of mental illness makes sure that the film doesn’t drift into forgettable obscurity. Instead, Silver Linings Playbook does an intriguing job at balancing the appropriate use of humor and keeping us empathetic to increased vulnerability that comes with mental disorders. As compared to David O. Russell’s other works, such as the existential parody I Heart Huckabees or the family boxing drama The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook actually could be considered one of his better works because of its honesty and its extremely felt themes of judgment, personal acceptance, and realization when there is a good thing right in front of you. While the latter half of the film reverts to a standard and slightly predictable Romantic Comedy it is the establishing first half that grips you to these vulnerable and eccentric characters and remains an enjoyable experience till the very end.

Silver Linings Playbook follows Patrick (Bradley Cooper) who is being released from a court ordered psychiatric ward sentence after beating the man who was cheating with his wife almost to death. Because of his bipolar disorder Patrick attempts to change his life by fixating on his failed marriage and giving himself the life motto phrase Excelsior, which means “ever higher.” As he transitions to moving back in with his parents (Robert De Niro and Jackie Weaver), Patrick ends up meeting an equally perturbed woman named Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) who is depressed and acts out in empty sexual encounters ever since the passing of her husband. It’s almost obvious that these two socially awkward and inappropriately blunt people would be perfect for each other but for Patrick it’s a distraction. His unintentional judgmental nature along with his mental obsessiveness locks him into a state of self-harm where he begins denying himself a potential for new happiness by reverting back to the familiar. But once his friendship with Tiffany begins to grow based on an involuntary promise to be her dancing partner in a competition he begins to find focus, discipline, and opens him up for risk and a chance to do something different. Layered throughout the script are intriguing relationships and personal struggles that give a depth that is missing in most Romantic Comedies making Silver Linings Playbook an intriguing, heartfelt, and delightfully humorous film. If it weren’t for the remarkable cast that David O. Russell directs then the scripts honesty and unconventional choices would definitely not have been as noticeable or unique.

Any film that centers on mental illness should be one that demands high caliber performances and thanks to David O. Russell’s practical and careful directing he is able to capture great performances from most of his cast. Both Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence take full advantage of their opportunities to be mentally unpredictable and heightened in their vulnerability. Not only do they make scenes where social normality is thrown out the window extremely funny they also are able to bring a deep sense of sympathy to their struggles. For Cooper there is a particular scene where his character Patrick has severe confused feelings for Tiffany which forces him to revert to finding his wedding video resulting in a manic episode that inevitably involves his parents in a physical nature. Lawrence shines throughout the film but there was a revealing sequence where her character regrets sharing with Patrick yelling out in painful shame, “I opened up to you, and you judged me.” Their ability to make mental illness or depression seem not only quirky but also very human is a testament to their acting and resonates in the films dramatic high moments and the script’s arching themes. The supporting cast is also highly commendable with standout performances from Oscar winner Jackie Weaver, John Ortiz, and even a surprise return for Chris Tucker. But the real remarkable performance is a surprising and long awaited return of Robert De Niro to demonstrate his true acting abilities as Patrick’s OCD father who has a great deal of fatherly love but also a great deal of mental struggle himself. With the strength of these performances all of the themes that the film is trying to convey come out strong and create not only an enjoyable experience but also a personable one as well.

David O. Russell is a filmmaker who specializes in crafting scripts that have pertinent themes that utilize its cast in far better ways than he has ever used the camera and Silver Linings Playbook is no exception. Overall his latest film is a humorously honest portrayal of mental illness and a deeply focused love story on personal acceptance before others can that is exceptionally aided by stellar performances. The first half of the film grabs your attention with cleverness and unconventional character traits, which is enough to keep you invested even when the film becomes slightly more formulaic towards the end. Bradley Cooper’s character Patrick deeply tells himself that his karmic attitude will bring him a silver lining but his attitude was deceptive because his perception was flawed and that is the most relatable aspect that the film offers. The other is the fact that sometimes we’re our own barriers to potential happiness because whether it’s mental illness, stubbornness, or fear we will always take the easy path or the familiar one over a riskier one. Patrick eventually overcomes his barriers with the help of someone who truly understands him and perhaps that’s all we need is someone who understands us for us. Silver Linings Playbook is an undeniably heartwarming and unconventionally humorous film that will no doubt captivate and charm most audiences due to its honest acting portrayals and relatable relationship study that is far deeper than a majority of typical Romantic Comedies.

Grade: B+

Note: This movie will be released November 21st

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