Basic Plot: Pat Solitano Jr. (Bradley Cooper) has been released from a psychiatric hospital and suffers from fairly severe bipolar disorder. He lives with his mother (Jackie Waver) and football gambling obsessed father (Robert DeNiro) and tries desperately to reach our to his estranged wife. While he fails to grasp that his wife is over him, he meets Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence) a similarly distraught individual coping with her own mental problems and the death of her husband, and the two strike up a bond while dealing with their pasts and illnesses.


Romantic comedies have a tendency to trade realism for absurdity, humor for pratfalls, and drama for ridiculous plot twists. Yet every so often a movie swings by that has realistic characters going through serious problems, yet still get you that romantic, euphoric lift. If this sounds like a breath of fresh air, check out Silver Linings Playbook.


From the onset of this film, it's clear that Pat's mental issues are not going to be taken lightly or restricted to simple quirks. His obsessiveness, panic attacks, and mood swings are not only debilitating, but have clearly been a long term problem. Same when we meet Tiffany. The way that she snaps at people and how her mood changes like a flick of a switch feel real, and having both characters in a room or dealing with their friends and parents often becomes extremely intense. In short, this film had balls.


Of course, that would mean nothing if the actors were not up to speed, yet Cooper and Lawrence are perfectly cast. When Pat and Tiffany descend into those dark, mental places where they begin to abandon all their therapy and all reason, you can see the physical change in their faces as all the cogs and gears in their minds start to snap and crumble apart. Cooper is a particular pleasure to watch, and he makes you believe the crazed fervor of the character. When he suddenly needs to see his old wedding video, or when he reacts badly to a song being played, you understand the pain and frustration he is going through. You get caught up in his mind and his world. The only downside to this is that the first half keeps you very tense and on the edge of your seat, but perhaps that was the goal. Also, hats off to Lawrence for being able to switch from coldness to rage quickly without it feeling unrealistic. 


As a side note, if you're like me and didn't see Jennifer Lawrence's sex appeal before, go watch this movie. It'll convert you.


De Niro gave a very strong performance, which was a nice surprise since the past twenty movies he's been phoning it in and the past ten of those he's been faxing it in. It's reassuring to see a veteran actor remind us that a good script and direction brings out the best in everyone.


Chris Tucker pops in every once in a while as Pat's loyal friend Danny, also dealing with mental problems. His performance is optimistic and enthusiastic, which we all know Tucker for, yet it's more subdued here since he's playing a more humble character than usual. It's as if Danny is glad to simply be alive in the world, away from any hospitals, and wants to live a fun life without being an overeager dick about it. It's a nice performance. 


Jackie Weaver did fine as the mother, although her character is incredibly passive and rather uninteresting. 


The big bone to pick I have with many movies in general is that they don't focus on their attributes, and luckily this one did. The best part of this movie is the relationship between Tiffany and Pat, and we gets lots of that. The script between them is brutal and witty, and it helps that the two leads have great chemistry.


Despite the maturity of the movie's script, the realism of its portrayal of mental illness, and the strong acting performances, I didn't think this was the greatest thing since twist-off beers like everyone made it out to be. I think we have lower standards for movies now. Most people will read that and call me a bitter, old-fashioned kind of critic, which isn't true. I personally think the majority of old classics are mediocre at best, and a great number of my personal favorite films are relatively modern (including Wall-E and Road to Perdition). My point is that a movie comes along that is good. Not great, certainly not mind-blowing, but very good, and the crowds and critics throw praise at it faster than panties at DeCaprio. I'm talking about movies like Life of Pi, Argo, The Kids Are Alright, The Help, Dark Knight Rises, Lincoln, Django Unchained, and The Social Network. Most of these films are good yet I ask, did they truly astound you? Will they stand the test of time? Did you find yourself nod off during the slow scenes or check your watch? Are these movies truly great?


Same goes for Silver Linings. Despite all its strong points, the film starts to fall apart in the third act. It felt rushed as hell, zipping through the climax with all plot points being haphazardly resolved and before you can blink it's all over. The movie cut to black at such an awkward time that it startled me more than most horror movie jump scares. It left me feeling unsatisfied and a tad puzzled. 


For one, I didn't buy that these two were in love. The movie should have gone the As Good As It Gets route and gotten the two leads together, in harmony, but not necessarily in love. Even though we got lots of time with Tiffany and Pat, half of that deals with their trauma and illnesses, and we never get much reason to believe these two would be that smitten. Except for a couple small scenes, Tiffany's attraction to Pat is underdeveloped, and there is also a critical week where Pat would have gotten over his wife, yet the movie skips that period of time entirely. 


It doesn't help that the soundtrack mostly sucked.


Also, I love football, yet the large subplot about the father's gambling and how luck, or "juju" affects the game I found to be mostly boring. I don't think it enhanced the story or the emotional content in any meaningful way. It seemed more like a distraction: a shoehorned plot device created so that the film could reach some sort of climax. Which is fine, movies need a climax, but Pat and Tiffany's involvement in a dance competition, with some tweaking, could have still been climatic by itself. The big "parley" scene in the third act goes on FOREVER and I couldn't wait for it to end. The dialogue gets a bit melodramatic and downright inhuman towards the end, which is strange since the first two-thirds feel so earnest. Look, you've already established that you're not afraid to "go there" with your movie. So why did the ending have to be so....lame? It's a paint-by-numbers cornball love story finale at its most basic, and it's so rushed it feels like it's on fast forward. 


It's critical to make the ending of your movie count, and here it is sloppy and forgettable. However, do not mistake my reservations about the film for hatred. There are fantastic scenes here, including the catastrophic diner-date, a hilarious recap of Lord of the Flies, a heartbreaking father-son chat, Danny teaching the two leads some moves, an impressive tracking shot to showcase Tiffany's anger, and of course the clever final dance routine which uses color to wonderful effect. This is one of the best romantic comedies out there, and certainly one of the least condescending. The film has guts and isn't afraid to show you them, yet you'll still get a kick out of the funnier bits, and maybe even shed a tear or two.


So if you would rather watch pretty people fall down a lot, go watch something with Kirsten Bell. But if you want to see pretty people dealing with real shit, check out Silver Linings Playbook.



Best Way to Watch:  With a good friend


Rating: 7/10







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