Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Directed by David O. Russell
Hype has killed its share of good movies. After listening to a year of raving reviews and Oscar conversation, I had high hopes for director David O. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook.” Well, once again, hype brought my hopes crumbling down when I finally got to see the movie I had been meaning to see for a while.
In just the sappy romantic-comedy Hollywood loves, Pat (Bradley Cooper) is released from a psychiatric hospital months after catching his wife in the middle of an affair and going off the rails. He’s trying to figure out his life so she’ll take him back, while living with his caring mother (Jackie Weaver) and sports bettor father (Robert De Niro). When he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence, in the role that earned her Best Actress), he discovers that he’s not the only one battling mental illness. Despite both of their parents’ objections, they bond, but is it only so Pat can reconnect with his wife?
One of the things I was really excited to see was a believable portrayal of mental illness and romance blooming from difficult circumstances. I had heard “SLP” did a commendable job with this, but I didn’t buy it. The superficial, sappy relationship is as predictable as it is unremarkable. The main characters’ mental illnesses aren’t hashed out – the audience is left to assume that they’re genuine. I would hate to say that the film uses mental illness as little more than a unique plot technique, but…
Of David O. Russell’s last three films (besides this, “The Fighter” before and “American Hustle” since), “Silver Linings Playbook” is my least favorite. Jennifer Lawrence is incredible, and Bradley Cooper may give the performance of a career, but “American Hustle” and “The Fighter” both boast better acting ensembles. Some of the dialogue you hear is refreshing (it’s based on a novel of the same name), but, again, the screenplays of the other two are more notable. “Silver Linings Playbook” is a fun, cute, and enjoyable rom-com, and a really good one for the genre, but it doesn’t compare to the Oscar fare it competed against last year.