This is the film that has been feted and loved by the critics. It has been nominated for eight Oscars, including the big four of acting apart from best picture and director. The synopsis speaks of mental illness, institutions and marital discord. So you are convinced that you are in for some heavy duty movie experience, but the fun thing is, yes it is about mental illness, broken marriages, brittle relationships, but it is also a super engaging, warm and sharply funny film.
Based on a novel of the same name by Matthew Quick, director David O Russell (The Fighter), who has also written the screenplay, has created a bright sparkly film that is not afraid to go to dark spaces of the mind and heart. The ensemble cast adds another glorious layer to the proceedings and lifts what could have so easily gone wrong to a jolly experience at the movies.
Patrizio Solitano returns home one evening to find his wife in the shower with someone else. He nearly beats the lover to death and is committed to the mental hospital. He returns home after eight months of treatment determined to get his life and wife back. In the process he meets Tiffany, a widow with issues of her own, who persuades Pat to partner her in a dance competition in return for passing his letters to his estranged wife.
There is also Patrizio Solitano Sr, who wants to start a restaurant and hopes to get the money by betting on the Eagles game. The climax has the dance off and a make or break game and the festive season — see how much could have gone wrong and turned soppily sentimental? Happily it doesn’t — you care for the characters and invest in them and the finish is truly nail biting.
Bradley Cooper is charming and vulnerable and angry and full of nervous energy as Pat, while Jennifer Lawrence is a revelation as the fragile and tough Tiffany. Robert De Niro inhabits his character — playing the flawed dad and Anupam Kher holds his own as the court appointed therapist Patel (wish his accent was not vaguely reminiscent of Peter Sellers’ Party accent though). Chris Tucker is also fun and not annoying (a huge bonus when you think of Tucker!) as Pat’s friend from the mental health facility. Julia Stiles also nails her role as the high maintenance wife of Pat’s friend.
The throwaways — the poster of Midnight Meat Train, the fascinating horror film Cooper acted in for example, are delicious. Silver Linings Playbook is not an iconic classic or anything like that. It is an enjoyable romantic comedy, which is a happy thing.