Silver Linings Playbook has nothing in common with your average romantic comedy like He’s Just Not That Into You or 50 First Dates – even if it has romantic elements and rib-tickling moments.
Nor do the mentally unstable protagonists bear any resemblance to most of the people who will catch this oddly-named movie. So why did it get nominated for 4 Golden Globe Awards including nods for the biggies such as Best Motion Picture, Actor, Actress and Screenplay?
Maybe it’s because Silver Linings Playbook has ditched all the predictable fluff and replaced it with a realistic look at love and life – something you almost don’t expect from Hollywood movies like 27 Dresses and No Strings Attached, with their fairytale-like storylines. And it does this without swinging to the other gloomy extreme, providing insight into people with depression, manic-depression or bipolar disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and showing how these conditions don’t stop people from being in love.
If anything, love, or rather love lost, seems to be the trigger for the first 2 psychiatric issues. Bradley Cooper plays Pat Solatano, a man who had lost all that men hold dear: his career, his marriage, his home and possibly his dignity too, when he lashed out violently at the man his then-wife, Nikki (Brea Bee), was allegedly having an affair with when he found them in the shower at his home together.
Even 22-year-old Jennifer Lawrence, fresh from her stint as the lead in The Hunger Games, gives a memorable turn as a stunning Tiffany,who fell into depression after the sudden death of her husband. She turns into the office nympho as a reaction to the shock and promptly gets fired. Not only did she handle her clinically depressed character well, but she also proved to be quite the comedian through her ironic humour like when she repeatedly ambushes Pat when he’s jogging, and boy – can she dance! There was a dance piece in the movie where Lawrence and Cooper had to perform a ballroom dance number.
Her 2011 Best Actress Oscar nomination for Winter’s Bone led to her clinching the lead role in box-office hit, The Hunger Games. It should come as no surprise if she were to land an Academy Award for Best Actress in Silver Linings Playbook.
Besides Cooper and Lawrence, we have Robert De Niro, Cooper’s co-star in Limitless, who has had his share of laugh-inducing roles in Stardust and the Meet The Parents series as well as hilarious motormouth Chris Tucker from Rush Hour who first appeared in the movie as a deluded mental patient who would pounce upon any chance to get out of the mental institution.
Back to the plot, Pat’s committed to a mental institution for his rage against his cheating wife and diagnosed as bipolar, with mood swings caused by stress. 8 months on, Pat’s mom, Dolores (Jacki Weaver), gets him discharged against the better judgement of the psychiatrists. The conditions are that Pat takes his medication, attends counseling with Dr Cliff Patel (Anupam Kher of Bend It Like Beckham) and abides by his restraining order – to keep at least 500 feet away from Nikki at all times.
Pat may be determined to win Nikki back and restore his life but clearly he wasn’t near normal when on the first night back in his parents’ home, he entered their room at 4am, waking up the entire neighbourhood, lamenting/raging about how cruel life is and how Hemmingway (which he was reading) should have written a happier ending. This was to be the first of many of Pat’s outbursts.
The fact that they were both grappling with new psychiatric illness and lost love probably cemented the friendship/relationship between Pat and Tiffany. They even made a deal, where Tiffany would help Pat send Nikki a letter if he’d be her partner for a dance competition. Surely you don’t need a movie to tell you that spending hours in the arms of someone can lead you to forget any previous romantic entanglements…
Silver Linings Playbook comes across as a bit of a shock to your system, as you put up with fairly constant anger and shouting, coarse language, ragged camera movement, with hurried zooming in to the actors. Well, reality can be gritty and slightly disorienting. Director David O Russell, who also directed The Fighter and Three Kings, had his reasons: to reflect the film’s eccentric themes and tones. It was quite a gamble to take, but it was one worth taking.
Aside from the technicalities, Russell explored the various themes in the movie very well through a combination of dark humour, by injecting humour in instances relating to mental illnesses like when Pat and Tiffany exchanged notes on the medication they were on, and romance.
One huge takeaway from this movie is that happy-ever-afters can exist in real life too, but only if you accept your significant other for all that they are and embrace the lunacy and work around it instead of shunning it. And of course, if you have a sliver of hope, you might just find your silver lining.
•Movie name: Silver Linings Playbook
•Release Date: 10 Jan 2013
•Runtime: 122 minutes
•Censorship Rating: PG
•Director: David O. Russell
•Main actors: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Chris Tucker