Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

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There's a scene in Silver Linings Playbook where the characters are rooting for a score of 5 out of 10 in a dance competition. These characters crossing their fingers to reach mediocrity felt painfully like a metaphor for the entire movie. A dark romantic comedy about a pair of emotionally disturbed individuals, it rang horribly false and overly simple. Bradley Cooper does a good job of playing Pat, a former fatty who nearly killed his wife's lover when he caught them in flagrante. Sure, murder is never advisable, but I can't blame him for being quick to anger upon seeing this dude doing his lady in the shower. Everybody in the film, however, treats him as a Highly Dangerous Individual. Come on, people. Just don't sleep with his wife and you'll probably be fine. After meeting his therapist, I have even more pity for the guy. This doctor skirts some pretty weird ethical lines, playing a song that he knows is a violent emotional trigger for Pat and endangering the safety of his employees and other patients╔you know, just to see if the song still bothers Pat. No big. Jennifer Lawrence fares a little less well as Tiffany, a recently widowed young woman who claims to have slept with everyone in her office. Everyone. She got fired because everyone at her office was fighting over her. Cool. Pat and Tiffany meet cute at an intimate dinner party where I guess we're supposed to see that they bond over being a couple of social retards. Tiffany proceeds to stalk Pat, managing to convince him to enter a ballroom dance competition with her. I'm not really sure what form of dance the move "Straddling the Guy's Face" is from, but they perfect it and that's nice. Pat and Tiffany are messy characters. As a result, the things that they have to overcome in the movie should be messy, as well. But they're not; things are just inconvenient, set up to tie up all nicely at the end. It ultimately feels too easy and when the two leads suffer from such a lack of chemistry, a happy ending doesn't make it all okay.


Silver Linings Playbook was my favorite film of 2012, and I have absolutely no idea why. In a year filled with a lot of great films whose merits I could easily discuss (The Master, Moonrise Kingdom, Looper, etc.), Silver Linings Playbook continually rises to the top of my list, no matter how much I try to find fault with it. I have literally tried to make myself dislike this film, and yet... here we are.

The plot of Silver Linings would be dangerous to type out, because about halfway through, you'd know exactly how it's going to end. It's a romantic comedy, a film of convenience, where every event takes place only out of its necessity to advance the plot. Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper play damaged acquaintances who both have something very literal to offer each other, and Robert DeNiro plays a damaged cog in the machine that helps move the story along at a pleasant clip. It's cute.

Perhaps what makes Playbook work so well is each actor's commitment to playing their role as if they aren't in a cute movie. Each character is desperately struggling to find and maintain stability while almost intentionally fighting the ability they each possess to make themselves better. Jennifer Lawrence turns in the best work of her fledgling career as a young widow who takes the arbitrary desire to participate in a dance contest far more seriously than the recent death of her husband. Bradley Cooper attacks the cookie cutter role of a discharged mental patient, a role that could have easily been played solely for laughs in another person's hands.

Having said all of this, I feel even further from the answer as to why I love this movie so much. But in the end... here we are.


Silver Linings Playbook is a wildly entertaining romantic comedy that incorporates several clichés (boy meets girl and has to get over ill-suited ex, dance competition brings the leads closer, therapist device allows us to hear lead's inner thoughts, happy predictable ending), yet doesn't feel cliché due to David O. Russell's unique directing and the quirky yet realistic performances he gets from his actors. Jennifer Lawrence is charming and natural. Jacki Weaver is adorable as lead Bradley Cooper's mother, and Robert De Niro, as Cooper's father, is still very Robert De Niro, but gets to show off his range and is utterly charming as well.

The subject matter of mental illness is used comically, and brings an interesting spin to the storyline, yet it is taken maybe too lightly. Due to the mental condition that the lead characters are in, a happy ending seems unrealistic. Still, this is a film that may be enjoyed time and time again and may be prescribed to cure your blues.