Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
“Watch for the signs”
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Director: David O. Russell
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro
Synopsis: After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own.
WARNING! This review contains SPOILERS.
There can’t be many men in the world who consider “I think you should leave” to be a wise thing to say to the man who’s just found you doing his wife in his shower while the song to which the cuckolded husband and his wife danced at their wedding plays over the speakers. You’re naked and you’re vulnerable, and now you’re quite rightly going to receive a far more severe beating than you had coming your way before you opened your mouth. So there can’t be many who wouldn’t react in a similar fashion to that of Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper – American Hustle) when confronted by such a situation. Pat’s fortunate in a way that he’s subsequently discovered to have been suffering from previously undiagnosed bipolar disorder at the time of the attack, which means that, instead of going to prison, he serves eight months in a mental institute.
The attack on his wife’s lover is shown in flashback, while the movie opens with Pat being collected from the institute by his mother (Jacki Weaver).and returning home to resume his life and hopefully win back his wife, even though she’s had a restraining order placed on him. Shortly after arriving home, Pat is invited to dinner by his best friend, Ronnie (John Ortiz – Carlito’s Way, 3 A.M.) and his materialistic wife, Veronica (Julia Stiles – 10 Things I Hate About You). Exactly why Veronica, who clearly disapproves of Pat, would invite him to dinner and introduce him to her younger sister, Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence – The Hunger Games, American Hustle) is never really explained. It could be because she sees them as kindred spirits, both touched by mental illness, although Tiffany’s undisclosed disorder differs from Pat’s in that it manifests itself in bouts of sexual promiscuity. Anyway, Pat and Tiffany connect (sort of) over a discussion about the wide range of meds they’ve each had to take to keep their conditions under control, which means it’s not long before she’s offering him a session of no-strings, uncomplicated sex. Because Pat is still determined to win back his wife, he refuses the offer, but Tiffany sees something in Pat which she considers worth pursuing.
In many respects, the modern movie is much more sophisticated than its antecedents. Storylines are more complicated, and instead of offering the kind of lightweight fairy-tales that vintage Hollywood offered its audiences, today’s movies often address problems to which its audience can relate through first-hand experience. Characters have more depth and texture, and are often no longer wholly good or bad, but a mix of both. It’s ironic, then, that when a modern moviemaker falls back upon the simpler storytelling techniques from days of old, moviegoers flock in their millions to see what they’ve made. Silver Linings Playbook, which cost $21,000,000 to make, contains all the realism of a Bette Davis weepie and consistently fights shy of showing its audience the true toll mental illness takes on the lives of millions, and yet it took a staggering £214,000,000 worldwide.
While there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s a slick, enjoyable piece of entertainment, there’s equally no denying that Silver Linings Playbook uses mental illness as nothing more than a prop with which to bring together a mismatched couple whose personality quirks – the things we would expect to prevent them from ever connecting – are the very things that bring them together. For much of the time, their respective disorders are pushed so far into the background that they are virtually forgotten, and on the occasions that they do force their way to the foreground they are treated with such superficiality as to be nearly unrecognisable from the real thing. Pat has an isolated – but convincing and well-acted – episode early on, but that’s about it. Even more irritating is the way that the ever-reliable Robert De Niro (The Family, Last Vegas) lines up his TV remotes and rubs his little green hankie while watching football to demonstrate how his life is blighted by OCD-lite, and a restrained Chris Tucker, who plays a fellow former inmate of Pat’s, obsesses over hairstyles to demonstrate… well… the many diverse forms mental illness can take, presumably. It must be something of an insult for real people inflicted with such life-debilitating illnesses to see their conditions treated in such a superficial manner for the sake of a romantic drama. At least the film’s poorly-disguised shallowness is exposed for what it is by a horrible feel-good ending which involves a dance competition and a big bet. Anybody want to guess how that one turns out?
(Reviewed 19th March 2016)
Click below for a free preview of the Kindle book, The Films of Chris Tucker. The book, written by the author of this review, features reviews of all of the actor’s films, and is available to buy, or to read for free if you’re a member of Kindle Unlimited.