Silver Linings Playbook starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence: Bipolar has never looked so sexy.
Being the first film since Million Dollar Baby (2004) to receive the ‘Big Five’ Academy Award Nominations (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Writing), I had some seriously high expectations heading into the Silver Linings Playbook screening (though admittedly the seriously crap poster did plant a seed of doubt).
Based on the novel by Matthew Quick, Silver Linings has us trailing bipolar sufferer Pat (Bradley Cooper) following his release from an eight-month stint in a mental institution. Returning home to live with his parents, and hell-bent on reconciling with his estranged wife, Pat is thrown off course via introduction to Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) an equally “crazy” (and equally hot) widow with her own issues.
Sounds simple right – conventional even? Well in a way it is; it’s beautifully simple. Yet Silver Linings also carries with it a depth that results in a memorable and powerful little film.
Director David O. Russell was reportedly drawn to the story through a personal connection; his son is bipolar and has OCD. His sensitivity towards the subject, and his understanding of relationships within families with mental illness, adds a valuable realism to the film. I completely ‘bought into’ the on-screen family, with the multi-layered characters and their interactions being utterly believable.
Russell walks the fine line between humour and sadness with seemingly expert ease (as does the talented cast) the film swings rapidly yet effortlessly between heightened states of emotion. This extreme fluctuating of emotions reflects Pat’s bipolar, and invites viewers to experience his volatility. Such bold dynamic changes can often fail on screen, but the majority of them work to great effect here.
Whilst presented like a quirky rom-com/drama, the more astute viewer is positioned to question: what is ‘crazy’? What is ‘normal’? Why is something considered normal just because most people conform to it?
The subtle question of diagnosis and medication is also addressed. Pay particular attention to the similarities of Pat and his father (played in a stellar performance by Robert De Niro). Perhaps the film is posing an interesting question: is modern medicine better at recognising mental illness, or is it simply something it uses to explain or ‘label’ behaviour we don’t understand?
Despite my anal deconstruction, Silver Linings is far from a lecture. It could simply be received as an off-the-wall romantic comedy/drama. It doesn’t demand analyzing.
The cinematography is suitably scatty, utilizing frequent movement to embody Pat’s volatile perception of his surroundings.
The soundtrack is sensational with haunting original music from Danny Elfman (Tim Burton’s ‘go-to guy’ for film music) and a solid playlist is incorporated into the film and used to heighten emotional moments.
The cast is the strongest I’ve seen in a while. Interestingly, the project was initially planned with Mark Wahlberg cast in the lead. Despite the director and Wahlberg being friends, he dropped Wahlberg for Cooper (ouch!). Ultimately this was a fabulous decision. Cooper is great – though, for the record, efforts to make him less ‘pretty’ by cutting his hair and having him costumed in tracksuits did not work. He’s still delicious.
Anne Hathaway was cast as Tiffany, but had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts. Her replacement, Jennifer Lawrence, is most welcome, though perhaps a little too young to be believable as a widow. Luckily her performance makes us forget she was barely out of highschool when she shot the film.
The end of the film does teeter a little too close to ‘predictable’, and they insulted us with a clichéd scene in the rain at the emotional down point in the film (Puh-lease! You’re better than that conventional crap!). Our two crazy leads also got a little too ‘normal’ towards the end, but perhaps this was purposeful and symbolised the two characters’ ability to level eachother out….
Silver Linings Playbook is an impressive little film that realistically explores relationships and mental illness with sensitivity, poise and a fantastic sense of humour. It makes a strong comment about society and our perception of ‘crazy’, yet ultimately presents a highly enjoyable film.
I rate it 8 out of 10 stars.