Movies about people with mental illnesses isn’t my usual thing unless it is a documentary. Family dysfunction played for laughs can be entertaining. I liked Silver Lining Playbook even though the main plot wasn’t my usual taste. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence did a good job. I don’t think the film is worthy of the Oscar nominations it got but it was worth the money I spent on the ticket which is a good thing.
Bradley Cooper plays Pat, a man who has finished a stint in a mental health facility after an “incident” involving his wife and another man. He has previously undiagnosed Bi-polar syndrome but decides to will himself better so he can return to his wife and former life. He tries to maintain a positive attitude even to the point of delusion. Due to the terms of his release he is forced to move back in with his parents, played by Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver. Pat’s mood swings result in waking up his parents to listen to random rants in the middle of the night and to then tune out when his father berates him for a trivial slight.
De Niro’s Pat Sr. has some issues of his own. He’s a bookie with an obsession with sports superstitions while Weaver’s well intentioned Dolores tries to gloss over and ignore the family issues simmering below the surface.
Jennifer Lawrence plays Tiffany who tries to cope as a young widow of a police officer by sleeping with everyone she comes in contact with. She lives with her parents as well but in a renovated detached garage. Her family which includes her sister Veronica, played by Julia Stiles, have their own dysfunctional issues. Veronica is a demanding wife driving her husband Ronnie, played by John Ortiz, into fits of rage he takes out on random objects in the garage.
I really liked how all are these people seemed broken in one aspect or another from irrational dependence on superstitions to using sex as a coping mechanism. I think it might have been boring if Pat and Tiffany were the only “crazy” people in the film.
The acting seemed real and natural but I did have issues with some of the funny moments. Some of the comedy fell flat to me because it was too absurd for the situation. The laugh out loud moments were few and far between for my tastes. I know it wasn’t trying to be a sitcom but the pacing seemed off where I was put off guard during some of the comedic moments.
Another issue I had was some plot holes. For example it seems all the main characters seemed to know each other before the time set in the film but in the beginning it seemed they didn’t know each other. I got confused. Pat Jr. knows Veronica because she is his BFF Ronnie’s wife but he barely knows Tiffany even though she lives in the same neighborhood. Pat walks Tiffany home from Veronica’s then walks home himself? Those moments didn’t make sense. Then there seems to be more with Pat’s mom, Dolores, trying to get Pat and Tiffany together but it’s only mentioned in passing late in the movie like maybe there was a scene or two taken out.
Don’t get me started on the tacked on character Danny, Pat’s friend from the mental hospital, played by Chris Tucker. He either was added at the last minute or maybe his appearance in the film was cut back in editing because he seems so under used in the film for no apparent reason.
However, the last 30 minutes made the film for me and washed away many of the problems. I really liked the ending and it was satisfying.
I think this film got several Oscar nominations because of writer/director David O. Russell and probably because many Hollywood types see themselves in Russell’s dysfunctional world. I think these kind of films don’t push the envelope hard enough and I get bored with quirky “crazy” people.
I just don’t find movies about people with mental illness to be entertaining. It is a fine line to walk and while I applaud Russell for the attempt, I think “Silver Linings Playbook” falls short of the goal posts.
I don’t think the film is Oscar worthy but it is above average and worth the ticket price I paid.
*Side Note* Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence will be seen together again this year in the Depression era film “Serena“