Film review: Silver Linings Playbook

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 February, 2013, 12:14pm

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker
Director: David O. Russell
Category: IIB


Silver Linings Playbook is one of those films with a number of scene-stealing supporting characters. Chief among them is the one played with scene-chewing relish by Robert De Niro; but those portrayed by the nicely multi-ethnic ensemble of Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker, Anupam Kher and John Ortiz also have opportunities to shine.

But until lead actress (and Best Actress Oscar winner) Jennifer Lawrence (above with Bradley Cooper) enters fairly late into this romantic drama-comedy, writer-director David O. Russell's adaptation of Matthew Quick's novel very much centres on the troubled man-child diagnosed with bipolar disorder, portrayed by Cooper.

Pat Solitano (Cooper) has just been released into the care of his parents, the obsessive-compulsive Philadelphia Eagles uberfan Pat Senior (De Niro) and the patiently tolerant Dolores (Weaver), after spending eight months in a psychiatric facility. A former history teacher who snapped and beat up a colleague after catching his English lit teacher wife Nikki (Brea Bee) having sex with said colleague, he refuses to accept that his marriage is over even though she now has a restraining order against him.

Still very much prone to dramatic mood switches and bouts of explosive anger, Pat refuses to take his prescribed medication and only goes to see therapist Dr Cliff Patel (Kher) because he is legally obliged to do so. Believing that an upbeat attitude and healthy living will be more helpful in getting him back on the right track in life, he seems downright delusional at times, as well as in major denial for the most part as to how problematic a personality he actually is.

At dinner one evening at the home of his loyal best friend Ronnie (Ortiz) and his wife Veronica (Julia Stiles), Pat is introduced to Veronica's sister, Tiffany (Lawrence). A recovering sex addict and young widow, Tiffany offers to help Pat get back in touch with his estranged wife in return for being her partner for an upcoming dance contest. Desperate to win Nikki back, he agrees, even though this commitment involves spending considerable time and effort training for the competition, as well as actually dancing in public at the contest itself.

Critically acclaimed and with eight Oscar nominations to its name, Silver Linings Playbook benefits from having a strong cast capable of winning teamwork and deserves some credit for not shying away from allowing its two main characters to be considerably more flawed and quirkier than regular romantic protagonists.

But although Lawrence beguiles as Tiffany, even while she is emotionally unstable, Cooper's Pat comes across as too gratingly self-absorbed to be worth as much attention and screen time as he gets in this 122-minute long movie.

The film's favoured handheld camera style also can get on one's nerves. Especially early on, it can appear as though the camera will never stop moving - and that motor-mouthed Pat will never shut up. Alternatively put: what some people might positively view as refreshingly energising can cause one to emerge from a viewing of this film feeling physically and emotionally drained. 

Silver Linings Playbook opens today