It’s a rare film that combines family, sports, mental illness, and love all into one. But Silver Linings Playbook does it, and does it well.
Bradley Cooper stars as Pat Solitano, a man who has been released from a mental hospital after attacking his wife’s lover. Pat moves back in with his parents, avid cook Dolores (Jacki Weaver) and obsessive Eagles fan Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro), who try their best to get him back on his feet. Pat soon meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who has some baggage of her own, and the two strike up an unlikely partnership.
Silver Linings was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including all four nominations for the Lead and Supporting Actor/Actress Categories. Needless to say, Cooper, Lawrence, De Niro, and Weaver all shine. Cooper and Lawrence are particularly strong in their scenes together, bringing natural chemistry to an unusual love story. I was glad to see Robert De Niro finally get a good part after about two decades of stinkers. After Little Fockers, I was about ready to give up on him. In addition, it was nice to finally see Jacki Weaver, especially after hearing so much about her performance in last year’s Animal Kingdom. She nails it, playing the long-suffering and loving mom to perfection.
The direction was also quite impressive. David O. Russell helms this one, fresh off an Oscar nomination for his last film, The Fighter. Russell directs with a softness and gentility that allows viewers to connect with the characters, all of which are brought to life vividly. He uses the hand-cam to put the audience in the moment, but doesn’t overdo it. It’s like a home video, in that the characters are treated as though they are a real family.
The script is excellent, featuring some of the most authentic dialogue I’ve heard in a film in quite a while. It’s an honest story, through and through, and there’s no attempt to soften the blows. Occasionally, there are scenes of intense conflict between Pat and his parents, and the film can get pretty heavy. But through it all, Silver Linings maintains a sense of hope and redemption; the idea that no matter how bad things get, we can always find a silver lining.
Silver Linings Playbook combines a great script, tender direction, and honest acting to produce one of the best films of the year. It may not be historically significant like Lincoln or visually breathtaking like Les Miserables, but Silver Linings Playbook is what it is: a feel-good film. And sometimes, that’s exactly what we need to see.