Everywhere you turn in London at the moment there is posters for Bradley Coopers new movie “Silver Linings Playbook”, the sides of buses, tube platforms and billboards are promoting what looks like the latest Hollywood rom-com. Swarms of women will flock to the cinemas to see the star of The Hangover, A-Team and Limitless. But this will not be the film they are expecting. Silver Linings takes an awkward yet powerful look at psychosis recovery, a man who has seemingly lost everything to the debilitating disorder that is bipolar. This adaptation of Matthew Quicks 2008 book boasts a script that changes the modern conception of what a love story should be.
Directed by David O Russell (The Fighter, I Heart Huckabees) big things were expected from this film. Russell is known for dealing with controversial subject matters and very strong characters, a story about a mental health then is surely his next step. The top end of the film looks very dark for Pat Solatano (Cooper) as he is discharged from a psych ward against doctor’s recommendation, his mother (Jacki Weaver) whisks him home where she believes he will be able to recover. Watching the first scenes of this film the audience has to remind themselves who they are watching, Coopers transformation into vulnerable, emotional, confused patient is astounding. Comic relief comes early on from fellow patient Danny (Chris Tucker) who’s vulnerability and innocence brings the audience round to not feeling frightened by Pat and the mental health issues he is contending with. From this point the audience knows, it’s ok to laugh.
Once home Pat is determined to get his life back on track after loosing his wife, job and is ready to reconnect with his friends. He has lost weight and is recharged with a new philosophy of “excelsior”, much to his father, Pat senior’s (Robert De Niro) dismay. For those who have dealt with mental health issues, psychosis in particular within their own families, will be able to relate to the hilarity twined with sadness that it brings. The terminology and counselling techniques are spot on. Manic behaviour in the night, passion filled fights with the family and obsessive behaviour is played out by Cooper to near perfection. Pat’s parents at a glance seem stable and maybe even a little boring but as the film progresses their eccentricities come out. Ritualistic football watching delivers some hilarious moments from both De Niro and Weaver.
As the audience is settling into this dark, warts and all comedy, Pat is invited to an old friends house for dinner. In walks the girl, Jennifer Lawrence plays Tiffany a widow struggling with the loss of her husband who has developed nymphomania and depression. Their friendship begins with a conversation about which meds they take, much to the alarm of the rest of the table. She soon becomes his confidant and the only person who will take his quest to get this wife back seriously. They create a turbulent world for themselves where they can be as they are without having to pretend, as they do with friends and family. In situations with other people often Pat and Tiffany play the part of truth tellers. When family is around them falling apart over betting and football, they have the ability to often seem, ironically, the sanest people in the room. The audience is so drawn to their characters you find yourself relating to their outbursts, that may seem from the outside as irrational behaviour.
One of the most striking feelings of this film is that of community and the small town environment. Characters walk everywhere; nearly all of the locations are based within Pat and Tiffany’s jogging route. The family’s obsession with football further promotes this, coming together in mutual support a team creates a social acceptance within that group. Pat’s doctor is even involved with match day mayhem surrounding their team, blurring the patient /doctor lines. When dealing with this sort of illness community is often a very key part of recovery. As the film draws to a conclusion the audience is left questioning the definition of crazy, De Niro’s portrayal of a superstitious football nut, bent on gambling, provokes much comic relief but pushes rationality to the side at times. This unusual rom-com will break your heart and mend it again. The ending plays out very differently to how you imagine it might however it is the characters that stay with you. It is a must see film for anyone who has dealt with this sort of illness or anyone who would like to learn more about it.
Directed By: David O. Russell
Written By: Matthew M. Quick
The Weinstein Company