It took many by surprise when Silver Linings Playbook picked up eight Oscar nominations, as while it got decent reviews, few thought it was a serious Academy Award contender. However, as the ceremony approached it picked up momentum to the point where many thought there was a decent possibility of it taking the Best Picture prize. In the end its only gong was a much deserved Bst Actress award for Jennifer Lawrence, but you can certainly see why it became a bit of a sleeper awards contender.
It’s the sort of film that sneaks up on you, following the rules of the romantic comedy but still constantly surprising with its characters and heart. Bradley Cooper is Pat, who’s being released from hospital against his doctor’s advice following a bipolar breakdown when he discovered his wife cheating on him. You can see why his docs were wary about releasing him, as Pat is still going through major mood swings, which his parents Pat Sr. (Rober De Niro) and Delores (Jacki Weaver) find difficult to deal with, especially as he doesn’t want to take his medication.
Despite the fact his wife has a restraining order against him, Pat can’t get past the idea that they’re still married and in love, and that he just needs to make her realise that and he’ll be able to go back to his old life. Then he meets Tiffany, who also has a few mental health issues following the death of her husband. She has links to Pat’s wife, and in order to get her new acquaintance to help her in a dance competition, she promises Pat she’ll pass a letter from him to his estranged spouse, as long as he dances with her.
If you dissect Silver Linings Playbook you very quickly realises that the actual storyline is pretty standard rom-com fodder – a guyis hung up on a woman, meets someone else, and while the audience can see they belong together, he doesn’t realise. However the clothes draped on that make it something much more unusual. These are complex characters, and not just because of their mental health issues – although that certainly takes it into an arena most rom-coms don’t touch.
David O. Russell’s script, based on Matthew Quick’s novel, takes time to get to know each of the people involved, fleshing them out into fully formed people you care about. It ensures you’re not simply forgiving Pat and Tiffany’s eccentricities and ‘bad’ actions because you know they have mental health problems, but because the film ensures you’re aware that they are basically good people no matter what is going on around them or what’s happened to them.
It’s also surprisingly funny, although it’s the acting that really raises this to the next level. Those who thought Robert De Niro was just going to phone it in for the rest of his career will be pleased to see that given a good character, he can still act. Likewise with Bradley Cooper, who’s previously been good at laying on the charm, but there’s always been a suspicion that he was getting by on looks, wit and a shit-eating grin. However here he shows that he really can deliver the goods. It’s Jennifer Lawrence who’s the true stand-out though. In fact it’s almost become annoying that at the age of just 22, she can hit pretty much any role she takes on out of the park. There’s a 16 year age gap between Cooper and Lawrence, and in most films that would result in a slightly creepy May-December leering at the younger women (which is so common in Hollywood films), but Lawrence’s maturity absolutely levels the playing field.
Ultimately Silver Linings Playbook is an old-fashioned heart-warmer, but with a complexity and themes that turns it into something far more interesting, which is well worth seeking out.
Overall Verdict: With a well-written script, complex characters and excellent acting, Silver Linings Playbook proves there’s nothing wrong with standard rom-com elements if they’re given a twist and handled extremely well.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac