Silver Linings Playbook

30 Jan

Director: David O Russell (2012)

Silver_Linings_Playbook_PosterA touching romantic comedy, about bipolar and mental illness? On paper, this does not sound too feasible. But in Silver Linings Playbook, David O Russell has flouted all my reservations and created a beautiful, inspiring and gently humorous film about the personal and familial struggles of mental illness in all its guises.

Pat (Bradley Cooper) has just been released from a psychiatric hospital, part of a court order after he beat his wife’s lover when he caught the two in the shower together. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Pat moves back in with his parents, played by Robert Di Niro and Jackie Weaver, determined to get his life back together and win back his wife. At dinner with an old friend, Pat is introduced to recently widowed Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who deals with her own depressive issues with a sex addiction rather than rage. In a deal that would normally reside in a plot for twee rom-coms primed and ready for the multiplexes, Tiffany promises to help Pat win back his wife if he enters a dance competition as her partner. But in Russell’s safe hands, the simple storyline becomes a catalyst to develop the building relationship between the two protagonists, alone in a world that doesn’t understand the way the feel – and is scared by what they think they know.

Winning herself an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, Jennifer Lawrence brings her usual feist matched with a realism and universal appeal to the beautiful and damaged Tiffany. Bradley Cooper balances his character’s need for control and order through exercise with his typically masculine bravado with a softer, more fragile persona. In this way, both Lawrence and Cooper capture the multiplicitous nature of mental illness – what we see on the outside is very rarely what is happening on the inside, complementing one another as they learn to deal with their conditions.

Silver Linings Playbook is driven by its strong cast who are expertly able to deliver the nuances and quirks of mental illness in a world that would rather ignore its existence. Brave and unapologetic for its portrayal of mental health in today’s society, Silver Linings Playbook is an important and uplifting revelation about those times when life doesn’t go to plan, and the people we meet who help us find the silver linings we need to get us through.

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