Saturday, February 2, 2013

Film Review: Silver Linings Playbook


After coming home to find his wife in the shower with another man, Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) snapped and almost almost beat the man to death. He was court ordered into an inpatient psychiatric facility, where he discovered he had undiagnosed bipolar disorder. Rejecting medications, because their side effects compromised his sense of self, Pat learned to talk the talk and go through the motions of treatment. After eight months, his mother checked him out AMA. Uh oh!



Now Pat's living with his mother (Jacki Weaver) and father (Robert DeNiro), who has perfected both football fandom and OCD to an art form, With aggressive optimism, Pat resolves to rebuild his life and reconcile with his wife, Nikki. He has a game plan for winning Nikki back, despite one teeny-tiny complication: she seems to want nothing to do with him and actually has a restraining order against him. His intrepid plan starts with reading all the books on Nikki's syllabus for her high school students.

Reading classics? Is that the way to court a woman? Well, if she's a nerd like me, actually ... yes. That's the perfect way to court her. My husband is not a big reader, so he settled for taking me to movies. Also an excellent way to win my heart. Definitely more effective than complimenting me on my fecund appearance. But I digress.

In one particularly memorable scene, Pat is infuriated by the ending of a Hemingway novel, screams "WHAT THE F-U-U-CK!!" and hurls it through a windowpane. I almost reacted that way to a few of the movies my daughter has introduced me to. Unfortunately a DVD doesn't have as much heft as a book; I couldn't propel it through a window.

Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a young woman struggling with grief and depression; promiscuity has been her drug of choice. Pat and Tiffany are both wounded and socially awkward, but they have a hopeful exuberant quality.When Tiffany agrees to help Pat reconnect with his estranged wife, they forge a tentative bond.



I am usually a tough customer when it comes to films about individuals with mental illness. I've lived too close to the subject, both personally and professionally, and seen too many cliched, unnecessarily ugly, or overly sentimental portrayals of the subject.

I have read that David O. Russell was drawn to this story because of his son's bipolar disorder, so he is probably one of those people who "gets it." And to its credit, the film didn't strive to explore mental illness in depth. It does something so much better. It tells a story of two unique, richly developed characters who have mental illness. It is one facet of their lives and relationship -- it doesn't define them -- and it feels honest and real. This film also offers something that, in my opinion, is as rare as ... well ... affordable psychiatrists. A smart, funny romantic comedy that actually made me root for the players. I couldn't resist their blend of painful awkwardness, intelligence, vulnerability, and passion.

Bradley and Lawrence played their roles beautifully, often expressing more with a single look than most romantic films manage to convey with reams of dialogue. The supporting cast was equally good. The protagonist's dad, Pat Senior, is wonderfully insane in his own right. My husband and I were beyond thrilled by the first terrific performance we've seen by Robert DeNiro in more years that we cared to count. WOO-HOO ... he's BACK! Jacki Weaver, as Pat's mom -- the woman who tries to hold it together for the two crazy men in her life -- portrayed the character with subtlety, making her incredibly real.

I was prepared to be let down, but this movie is actually as good as everyone says it is. The writing, acting, and directing have just the right chemistry, and it offers my favorite dance scene outside of Pulp Fiction. I also love what m. brown said at Two Dollar Cinema: "I love the idea that there really is someone out there for everyone, even if you're a bit of a mess and a little unstable." Were that not true, most of us would've been screwed. ;-)

Note: Soon I'll read and review the novel from which this was adapted. At first glance, I think it's quite different from the movie.

30 comments:

  1. I'm glad you loved this as much as I did. I thought they handled the topic of mental illness well.

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  2. Steph!!!!

    What a wonderful review. Articulate and clever, I friggin' loved it. You captured the story perfectly, as I stammered through my review foolishly. Speaking of, thanks for the link to that mess! I'm astounded.

    Mental illness is prevalent enough in my family, that it just seems rather normal at times. At work too, unfortunately. Enjoyed your handling of that as well.

    I also got a kick out of the thought of you repeatedly trying to throw a DVD copy of (in my mind) The Human Centipede through a window to no avail. Brilliant.

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    1. Thanks, M! Seriously, you made my day. Maybe my whole weekend. And I thought your review was rather brilliant, my humble blogging friend. ;-)

      Mental illness is pretty normal in my world, too. And the boundaries of "normal" become more elastic every day. I smiled when you mentioned mental illness being a big issue for you at work. You didn't say whether you meant the students or the faculty. Or, God forbid, students' parents.

      When I was a counselor, I worked in the school system -- they would refer particularly troubled kids to me. Among the many things I learned from that experience was how much shiz society dumps on the school system. I figure on a good day, with parental support, schools are equipped to provide a solid education. They were never meant to be social workers, psychologists, police officers, and everything else. These kids have so much stacked against them and -- with little help from families -- the schools are expected to sort things out. So very, very sad.

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  3. Glad you liked the film! I too was happy about De Niro being back in form especially that the film had such an awesome De Niro moment with him shouting at that interview kid :)

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  4. I was wondering what you thought of this movie. Thank you for commenting on my blog so I could remember to check yours! I will have to put it on my "to watch" list.

    Peace and Laughter!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Cristina! I keep meaning to return to my homeschool blog (Confessions of an Erratic/Eclectic Homeschool Mom), but it doesn't seem to be in the cards this year. :-D I really hope you like this movie.

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  5. Another terrific review! This had wonderful performances and great chemistry between the actors. I quite liked it on a first viewing, but I really want to see it again. I think it will only improve the second time around.

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    1. Thanks, Josh! That compliment means a lot, especially coming from you. ;-) I agree about the performances and the chemistry, and I am looking forward to a second viewing too.

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  6. Great to hear you liked this one too. I watched the other night and it was a real treat. Everyone was fantastic but especially good to see my all time favourite actor (DeNiro) get a decent role again. He was superb.

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    1. We're definitely on the same wavelength about DeNiro. His talent has been criminally wasted for a long time.

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  7. Good review. Everything made me so happy and joyous, that as soon as the movie was over, I left right out of there with a huge grin on my face, from cheek-to-cheek.

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    1. Yes! I loved the fact that it had substance, and at the same time, it was a fun movie. :-)

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  8. This sounds good, I didn't realize what the film was about until I just read your post. At first glance, I thought it was a chick flick. I defintely want to see this one, it sounds very well done. Plus, I'm a fan of Deniro and Bradley Cooper.

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    1. I bet you'll really like this movie, Naida, especially since you're a fan of DeNiro and Cooper. I look forward to hearing what you think.

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  9. Glad you enjoyed it! I'm not sure what held me back from loving it, maybe it was the ending, maybe the age difference, maybe I didn't care about the characters as much as others do, who knows. Perhaps I need to give it a 2nd chance. Interesting in the way SLP differs from usual rom-com with "quirky" screenplay. I had to use that word, didn't it :)

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    1. Yes, the word "quirky" fits perfectly, doesn't it? :-) Ha ha!

      Age difference? Do you mean the age difference between you and the characters?

      I think someone's reaction to a movie is very personal. Sometimes we connect with the characters, and sometimes we don't. It may be worth your giving it a second chance when it comes to DVD. Or maybe it just isn't your thing. ;-)

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  10. The B Cooper - J Lawrence age difference. It wasn't creepy or anything, though. They made it work.

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    1. Oh, right. I actually didn't really notice. There definitely wasn't much of a maturity gap between the characters. ;-)

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  11. Yes!! I was hoping you'd love it as much as I did. I didn't know the bit about David O. Russell's son … that does add credibility to it I think. He would be more "careful" in his portrayal in trying to make it accurate. I love how you describe the characters as both having this loopy optimism. I think I want to see this again now.

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    1. I want to see this again too, though I'll probably wait until it comes to DVD.

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  12. Yay, so glad you liked this one! It really is as good as everyone says. That dance was just priceless. And yeah, I've heard the movie is drastically different from the book.

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    1. I'm very interested in reading the book, largely for that reason. I really like it when a movie adaptation is very different from the book, but still wonderful. Kind of like Kubrick's The Shining. Outstanding movie based on an excellent book, but they're really different stories.

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  13. Definitely as you say, one of the biggest surprises of last year. I completely agree with "honest and real" as descriptions for the characters, it's probably what made me connect so well with the film as a whole.

    Good Review :)

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    1. Thanks! I think that's why I connected so well with the film, too.

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  14. I completely stand by saying that Silver Linings was the most uplifting film of 2012 and the biggest surprise! It was the first film that really humanized mental illness, and made me think "Okay, maybe I'm not so weird after all because I have traits like Pat or Tiffany" ...it wasn't overly cliched with Hollywood BS, which made it so relatable. I saw it 5 times in theaters, which is TOO much, but it's the only film I've watched in a long time that didn't get dull, and I found new appreciations every viewing...especially with the supporting cast--De Niro tearing up, Weaver's subtle yet heartbreaking stares. Glad you liked it...definitely want your opinion on the book, because I want to read it too!

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    1. I love what you said about it not being overly cliched with Hollywood BS. That was one of the things I liked best too.

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  15. Glad you liked this - it was great to see De Niro back on form. I want to read the book at somepoint. Who did you think was better out of Cooper and Lawrence?

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    1. About De Niro ... agreed! :-) I finished the book, but I can't seem to get around to reviewing it. About Cooper and Lawrence ... good question. I really liked the chemistry and interplay between the two, so I can't pick a favorite.

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