Review - Silver Linings Playbook


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Review - Silver Linings Playbook
Bradley Cooper be crazy. Jennifer Lawrence is too
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
David O. Russell
Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence
Release Date:
Age Rating:
Just released from a stay at a mental home, Pat (Bradley Cooper) is intent on finding the silver lining in his shattered life. Moving back in with his parents, he sets his sights on rekindling his relationship with his wife, getting help from an unusual source in the form of Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence).

Based on the 2008 novel by Matthew Quick, SilverLinings Playbook (it drops the definite article for some reason) is directed by David O. Russell, who also worked on the screen adaptation. Fresh from the Oscar winning success of The Fighter, there’s already awards buzz for Russell’s latest, which picked up a People’s Choice Award at TIFF this year.

The film puts its focus on a subjective view of mental illness, of a man who broke the rules of established society and was punished for it. Back in the world, he fights the fugue state of drugs with a rigorous exercise routine and one singular goal – reconnecting with his wife.

It’s to the films credit that we never really believe Pat is capable of these goals, and yet we root for him as he tries to create some semblance of normalcy in front of his friends and loved ones.

Bradley Cooper is front and centre for Silver Linings Playbook, working hard to confirm his dramatic acting credential. As I’ve said before, I don’t really get the appeal of Cooper – he’s at home in smarmy comedy but often at sea in more difficult roles. For what it’s worth, this is his best performance to date, particularly the nervous energy he fills Pat with – the attempt to seem calm despite a crazed expression and being frequently attired in a bin bag.

But the real life of the film can be found with Jennifer Lawrence’s Tiffany. From her first scene, she controls the picture in much the same way she manipulated Pat, potentially the only way to save him. Just 21 at the time of filming, Lawrence is clearly relishing the chance for a stab at a more mature and complex role, confirming the promise she first showed in Winter’s Bone. Her character may have her own form of crazy but she brings a seductive vitality to the film, while also acting veterans like Robert De Niro off the screen.

At least De Niro seems invested here, maybe for the first time this millennium and there’s able support from Animal Kingdom’s Jacki Weaver and a slightly alarming realisation that it really is Chris Tucker back on screen.

But it’s Lawrence and Cooper who take up most of the screen time and their relationship is nothing if not unusual – based on mutual mental fragility and the possibility of happiness, even if it requires more than a touch of emotional manipulation. The end point is never in doubt but the performances keep you invested, particularly as Pat tenuous grip on reality could snap at any moment.

Ultimately it’s that predictability which is Silver Linings Playbook's real weakness – the ending is apparent and the message of the film is relayed without the slightest hint of subtlety: we’re all a little crazy sometimes. Hardly revelatory but worth it for Lawrence’s electrifying presence.

7 Stars: Recommended
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