I really enjoyed Silver Linings Playbook. I was originally on the fence about whether to see it or not, but after seeing the trailer about three times, I eventually came around to it and I was really excited. Silver Linings, unlike DeSean Jackson, did not disappoint.
The films starts with Pat Solintano (Bradley Cooper) being released from a mental hospital by his mother (Jacki Weaver). He seems really, really confident that his life is going to turn around now that he’s out. Apparently he’s been working out a lot and just generally trying to improve himself. Despite how upbeat he is, the doctor still doesn’t want to let him out, but he can’t stop him. As they’re driving out of the parking lot, Pat’s friend Danny (Chris Tucker) gets a ride with them. As they’re driving, Pat’s mom gets a call saying Danny actually broke out and was not supposed to be released. She tries to pull over, but Pat jerks the steering wheel around and they almost hit another car. Even though Pat seems like a terrific guy and so positive, we get a glimpse right away of why he was in an institution in the first place.
Next we are introduced to Pat’s father, Pat Sr (Robert De Niro). He immediately has misgivings about taking Pat out of the hospital, but it’s obvious he’s glad to have his son back. We also learn that since he lost his job (everyone lost their job in this movie!), he’s become a bookie. He’s always had an obsession with the Eagles, but the betting just takes it to a whole new level.
Pat is determined, in a very big way, to get his wife back. It turns out his stint in the hospital was at least partly brought on by his discovery of his wife cheating on him. This his main problem throughout the film, the only way he can see to get over his illness is to get back with his ex-wife, when really he just needs to move on. Luckily, he goes to dinner at an old friend’s house and meets somebody who is just as crazy as he is (actually there’s some debate about that), Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence). They compare which meds they’ve taken, and it’s hilarious. They can empathize with each other in a way that no else in the room can. They are immediately attracted to each other, but Pat can’t acknowledge it because he’s so focused on getting his wife back.
For the first part of the movie, Pat sees Tiffany as pretty threatening figure, and they did a great job of bringing that across in the film. They’re this obnoxious song that Pat associates with “the incident” when he caught his wife cheating on him, and it plays a lot in the first part of the movie, and when Tiffany’s around. Plus Tiffany’s kind of weird, so she kind of puts the audience off as well (Pat does too to some degree with his crazy optimism). Pat wants to get back with his wife so bad, and he sees Tiffany as an impediment for two reasons. One, he likes her, and two, she represents the mental instability that he is trying to move past. The great thing about Tiffany though is that she accepts that part of herself, and she is able to help Pat even more because of it.
“So [she] has this dance thing.” In exchange for being her partner at a dance competition she has always wanted to do, she promises Pat she will secretly deliver letters to his ex-wife (she took out a restraining order against him, hence the secret). Various events transpire, and they both have trouble keeping to their part of the bargain. In the end, everybody comes through in their own way and we get a really happy ending.
The humor in this film is fantastic; there were so many great moments. I already mentioned the part where they compare which drugs they’ve taken, but the “crazy people” humor isn’t disrespectful and doesn’t get out of hand (I was initially worried this was going to happen, but after getting used to the trailer I wasn’t anticipating it at all). I’m not an expert on this or anything, but I think they did a really good job of showing how mental illness affect lives, but can really help people move on and become stronger. If Pat and Tiffany weren’t “crazy,” would they ever have been able to connect with each other? I don’t know, but if they didn’t at least move on in some ways, they definitely wouldn’t have been able to stay together for very long; their issues would get in each other’s way. It’s hard to tell which parts of them are “crazy,” and which parts of them are just who they are. It’s not just Tiffany and Pat that this is applied to: Pat’s friend that he has dinner with also has marriage problems, and Pat Sr has been known to beat people up and actually got banned from Eagles stadium because of it. Pat Jr has trouble understanding why he’s crazy and his dad’s not. This never really gets answered explicitly, but it is touched on and is interesting to think about.
Another aspect of this film I enjoyed immensely was more personal. I’ll admit that what I have to say in this paragraph doesn’t make Silver Linings Playbook a good film, but it made me connect with it a lot more than I would have otherwise. They had a lot of references in there that I could relate to, and of other things I love. First of all, most obvious, was football. Not an Eagles fan really, but I like football and this reminded me how much I miss watching it. Another was Pat’s motto: “excelsior” which is the state motto of New York, my home state. Not only did they play “What is and What Should Never Be,” one of my favorite Led Zeppelin songs, but they played The White Stripes. TWICE. (“Fell in Love With a Girl” and “Hello Operator”) They also referenced two of my favorite musicals, West Side Story and Singin’ in the Rain. When I was in the theater I was asking myself: “How did they know I was coming?”
The acting was phenomenal. Though I have never (shame face) seen Lawrence or Cooper in anything else, I most certainly will now (Hunger Games here I come). They were both terrific on their own and even better together. They were helped of course by having great unique characters to play. Lawrence could go from really aggressive and almost scary to vulnerable and cute really well, and similarly Cooper had this infectious joy throughout most of the picture, but there were some points when you could definitely see why the ex-wife had a restraining order against him. The depth they were able to achieve was wonderful. De Niro was great as well. He was especially great in the scenes he had with Cooper, because these were mainly the ones where more of his emotions came out. You could tell he cared about his son, and it was really touching at times. He was also hilarious with all his superstitions; the things he would do so that the Eagles would win. Like Cooper and Lawrence, he was also able to bring out an occasional darker side, but mostly being lovable and harmless.
Silver Linings Playbook was a terrific film that I was really able to connect with. I know I made a big deal about the references, but I was really able to connect apart from them as well. Everybody has problems right, and the film’s message about always trying to move forward is a great one. I think the best way I can describe this movie is sincere. It was good at getting down to the basics of human nature in an optimistic way that just made me feel great. I had a big smile on my face when I walked out of this one.
“I believe in the Eagles, I believe in my son, and I’m taking the bet.”
Long story short: 3.5/4 stars