Silver Linings Playbook

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Loved this movie right from the start. I think it would count as a romantic comedy but that shouldn’t discourage anyone from seeing it. Pretty much everything about the film was good if not great.

We follow the story of Pat (played by Bradley Cooper) a young man who was institutionalized because of an assault incident related to him seeing his wife with another man. Pat gets “liberated”from the mental health hospital by his mom Dolores (played by Jacki Weaver) and goes to live at the home of his parents to continue recuperating. His dad Patrizio (Roberto De Niro) is recently unemployed and trying to support the family by making sports books on his beloved football team, the Philadelphia Eagles.

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We come to realize that Pat Jr. has manic depressive disorder. He has started a “positivity plan” to get into shape mentally and physically in order to make himself more attractive to Nikki, the wife who he is separated from because of the incident. He is obsessed with winning back her love . He’s dealing with a lot of bad in his life and he’s trying hard to find the dark clouds’ silver linings. Like so many with mental illness, he is resistant to taking his meds because they make him feel “foggy” so he gets into trouble a couple more times while living at home. But, his character is so earnest and we believe that Pat is genuinely a good, well meaning guy.

The family are working class Italian American, which I can totally relate to. Dolores is constantly trying to lure visitors to stay to watch the game with Pat Sr. with her “crabbies and homemades” which had me cracking up. The casting of the parents was brilliant. I hope they win some awards for their performances. Mental illness is difficult for them all to grasp. We just see two parents that desperately love their son and want to do anything they can to help him. So the script is very real, while humorous at the same time.

Pat meets a sexy young widow “Tiffany” played by Jennifer Lawrence who has already won a SAG award and Golden Globe for her performance. Pat is loyal and still desperate for Nikki, but they develop a mutually beneficial friendship when Tiffany agrees to deliver a letter to Nikki, despite a restraining order Nikki has against Pat. In return, Tiffany demands that Pat be her partner in a dance competition.

To me, great screenplay writing laid the foundation for what became a great film. What was so wonderful about the writing was the character development. There are so many great characters in the film, starting with Pat and Tiffany, the parents, the psychiatrist – Dr. Patel, Danny – the friend from the mental hospital (played by Chris Tucker), Tiffany’s sister Veronica and her whipped husband, the list goes on….All of the characters were so vivid and had such great lines, even the ones that had relatively minor roles. Each was also really well acted. I’m sure the director should get some credit for putting it all together as well. The script was very clever and intelligent; definitely not your average American romantic comedy.

One of the underlying messages is quite noble, especially in light of the recent focus on mental illness with respect to the nation’s rise in gun violence. Mental illness affects most families in some way or another, whether alcoholism, depression, manic depressive disorder or schizophrenia. It is your neighbor, brother, niece, or yourself… The stigmatization has to stop and be converted to compassion. Creative solutions can be found to help those affected to live to their life’s fullest potential. We can not be so dismissive of such a large swath of society that has so much to offer. I hope that facing issues related to mental illness will be one of the next civil rights movements of sorts. It will do our society a lot of good.

The film appeared to be relatively low budget, except of course for the salaries of all the stars that were part of the cast. There is nothing flashy about any of it, which adds to the charm. The scenes are all from a working middle class neighborhood in Philly where the weather always seems sort of rainy or overcast.

I love movies like Silver Linings Playbook, although I am afraid I don’t think it will win the Best Picture Academy Award. In that sense, it reminds me a little bit of last years’ film The Descendents with George Clooney. A great script and lots of interesting character development, but somehow just not enough flash to win the big kahuna. Silver Linings Playbook is very positive in many respects and definitely a “feel good” movie. The simplicity of it was at the heart of its beauty. I have to give it five out of five stars. Hope you enjoy it too!

Silver Linings Playbook, 2nd Official Trailer