If there's an essential film to see this Oscars season, it's the comedy with emotional baggage to spare, "Silver Linings Playbook." The film is nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay at this year's 85th Academy Awards, which airs February 24th on ABC.
"Silver Linings Playbook," written and directed by David O. Russell, is based on author Matthew Quick's debut novel of the same name, and Russell has been openly candid about the personal significance that both the book and the film hold for him. Like the main character in the story, Russell's 18-year-old son suffers from bipolar disorder, and Russell has stated that he made this film for his son, to give him hope.
The central character in "Silver Linings Playbook" is Pat (played brilliantly by Bradley Cooper), a man who has been locked inside a mental institution for eight months and diagnosed with bipolar disorder, since almost beating to death the man he discovered in the shower with his wife. As the film opens, Pat is being released on the condition that he live with his parents under their supervision, attend therapy sessions, and take his prescribed medication.
Robert De Niro and Jackie Weaver play Pat's parents, Pat Sr. and Dolores Solatano, and it is revealed that Pat Sr. has his share of mental instability as well, which has manifested into an OCD fanaticism with the Philadelphia Eagles football team.
Pat clings to a kind of delusional optimism as he struggles to put his life back together, truly believing that he and his wife are still in love and will work things out, even though she has put out a restraining order against him. He is obsessed with finding the silver linings in his condition, but unfortunately all of his attempts at normalcy are rooted in self-denial and a refusal to take his medication.
It's a chance meeting with Tiffany (played by the astoundingly talented Jennifer Lawrence), a girl who is struggling with her own mental issues after the untimely death of her husband, that sets Pat on the right course and helps him to see the true silver linings in his life.
While the overwhelming majority of reviews for "Silver Linings Playbook" have been positive, there have been some negative takes on the film, which I think are due in part to misguided expectations.
It's important to keep in mind when going to see this film, that you are not going to see a lighthearted romantic comedy. While the movie is incredibly funny, it's also very serious and painful to watch at times. It deals with a heavy subject, and it's about finding laughter in tough situations.
Does the camera work, dialogue, and plot structure seem out of control at times? Yes. Does this make the film hard to watch at times? Yes. But, isn't that kind of the point? It's hard to watch people dealing with mental illness. But, it's even harder actually having to live with mental illness, and for those families who are affected by it, which I think is kind of the film's message.
It's a constant struggle for people with mental health issues to gain control over themselves and their lives, and David O. Russell doesn't shy away from this truth. His characters completely embody that struggle for self-control- they're loud, erratic, irrational, and explosive, but that's the point.
Pat, Tiffany, and Pat Sr. are not perfect people, and they do not react perfectly in every situation. But they are able to find their own kind of happiness with each other. And they love and support one another, which is the most important thing.
Yes, there are some contrived plot devices within the film, and yes the film has its flaws, but I feel like focusing on that stuff really distracts from the more important point which is "Silver Linings Playbook" is a very special film, with really great performances. It didn't get nominated in all of the acting categories at this year's Oscars for nothing. If for no other reason, it's worth going to see this film just to be able to watch the genius of Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, and Jackie Weaver on screen together.
Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, in particular, are absolutely amazing as two very mentally wounded people, able to overcome personal obstacles in order to help one another. Jennifer Lawrence recently beat out Jessica Chastain in the Best Actress category at the SAG awards, which might mean she is on her way to an Oscar.
"Silver Linings Playbook" Rated R Directed by David O. Russell Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jackie Weaver, Chris Tucker, John Ortiz, Julia Stiles
"Silver Linings Playbook" is currently playing in these Portland theaters: