“Silver Linings Playbook” is a rarity in movies. Adapted from Matthew Quick’s novel, the film pulls off what maybe only “Fight Club” and “Forrest Gump” have before. Surpass the original source material.
Recently released from a mental institution, Pat (Bradley Cooper) wants to accomplish all of the things his estranged wife always wanted him to, mainly losing weight and reading the books from her English class syllabus. The fact that there’s a restraining order against Pat is simply a road block. He moves back in with his Philadelphia Eagles-obsessed parents, played by Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver and Robert DeNiro, who looks rejuvenated at the opportunity to do more than collect a paycheck for the first time in years. Pat’s life is thrown for a loop when he meets Tiffany, played by Jennifer Lawrence.
As Pat, Bradley Cooper flips his endless amount of charm upside down, using it to possess the manic energy of someone suffering from bi-polar disorder. One second he’s like an excitable child, the next he’s nervously fidgeting, playing with his fingers, spouting off paranoid theories before lashing out violently. It’s a live-wire performance that’s only matched by Jennifer Lawrence’s Tiffany.
Even more of an exposed nerve than Pat, Tiffany is also bi-polar. She’s dealing with the fallout from the death of her husband by any means necessary. She just lost her job because of sleeping with everyone in the office, and tries to focus her energy into something more productive, like dance. Couple Tiffany with Pat’s lack of a filter, and Lawrence goes from zero to enraged in 0.2 seconds. At 22, Lawrence has already proven that she’s the best actress of her generation and one of the best working today. She never ceases to amaze.
One of the best things about “Playbook” is the maturity with which it deals with the main character’s mental illness. Director David O. Russell, who most recently helmed “The Fighter,” films “Playbook” in a similar handheld, you are there style, which prevents anything from being sugar-coated. Most people in the film either keep Pat and Tiffany at arm’s length, afraid of what they’re capable of, or try to tell them what’s good for them, since they feel the pair can’t make that decision for themselves. It’s what connects Pat and Tiffany from the beginning. Few things are more difficult than explaining a mental illness to someone who doesn’t know a lot about it or experienced it for themselves. Sure, Pat and Tiffany have problems, but like others who suffer from mental illness, they work everyday to get better. That’s the silver lining Pat is looking for; the moment when his life gets back on track and be reunited with his wife.
Calling “Silver Linings Playbook” a romantic comedy is almost doing the film a disservice, since it’s so much more than that, but the movie is a rom-com, only smarter, more mature and hilarious than typical entries that star the likes of Katherine Heigl, which look like bargain bin trash in comparison. “Playbook” is up there with “Jerry Maguire” in the ranks of great films in the genre. It’s not to be missed.