SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (David O. Russell, 2012)
Solitano (Bradley Cooper) has resided at a Baltimore psychiatric
facility for eight months when his mother Dolores (Jacki Weaver) arrives
to see that he is discharged in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK. Diagnosed
with a bipolar disorder after beating the stuffing out of a man having
an affair with his wife Nikki (Brea Bee), Pat is better than he was
before being admitted. He’s lost a lot of weight and talks about having
a positive mental attitude, but his improvements cover up the fact that
he’s still struggling to control his explosive anger.
moves into the attic of his parents’ Philadelphia home eager to fix
what his violent outburst ruined. Although Pat is laser focused on
repairing his marriage with Nikki, everyone else doesn’t seem to think
it’s such a good idea. For one, she has a restraining order, so Pat
isn’t supposed to communicate with her. His friend Ronnie (John Ortiz)
tries to set him up with Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), an emotionally
damaged widow, but Pat thinks she’s even more messed up than he is. He
reconsiders getting to know Tiffany when his therapist points out that
helping her as a friend would be good for him too. Also, Tiffany says
she can get a letter to Nikki for him. The catch is that in return Pat
must be her partner in a dance competition.
the surface SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK is a raucous romantic comedy, but
its real interests are superstition and delusion. In a world that can
be senseless and cruel, dealing with pain and disappointment through
irrational beliefs or rituals can provide comfort and order. Pat puts
his trust in the self-improvement system and psychotherapy. His father
Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro), running books to make ends meet since he was
laid off, casts his lot with obsessive-compulsive behavior and sports
and combines them when it comes to rooting on the Eagles. Donning a
favorite team’s jersey doesn’t help them win, and wearing black while in
mourning won’t bring back a loved one. Religion isn’t explicitly
mentioned, although both Pats wear necklaces bearing the face of Christ.
Dressing in these ways can give relief, though.
or not one sees putting faith in any of these spots as silly or
meaningless, they aren’t necessarily problematic unless they harm others
or cause self-incapacitation. Of course, that’s where the delusion
comes in and the source of these characters’ struggles. Pat can’t fully
recover until he accepts that his wife may not want anything to do with
him again and that he ought to stay on his meds. Serial flings won’t
grant Tiffany the freedom to shed her grief. The tension and confusion
pinging inside these characters’ brains have them poised on the knife’s
edge. Writer-director David O. Russell emphasizes their jittery
mindsets and boundary issues through editing and camera placement and
movements that indicate manic depression.
the taboo scenario in SPANKING THE MONKEY to the protagonist’s
combative family in THE FIGHTER, Russell’s films feed on chaos and
relationship dysfunction. The humor in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK flows
from unfiltered words and deeds. Cooper and Lawrence’s scenes crackle
with their blunt and hilarious assessments of each other’s neuroses.
Both give excellent comedic performances that avoid playing mental
illness as a colorful quirk. While there’s a lot of brutal truth
telling in their exchanges, tenderness and vulnerability underline the
romantic comedy formula often contends that people being horrid to one
another masks a deep, abiding affection that will eventually emerge.
It’s a crock but nevertheless that’s what gets stressed time and again.
The difference in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK is that presenting abrasive
personalities is a distancing technique for scared people struggling to
recognize their willingness to love and be loved.