In Silver Linings Playbook, Bradley Cooper plays Pat, a man with undiagnosed bipolar disorder, who has just been released from an eight-month stint in a mental institution after he beat up his wife Nikki’s (Brea Bee) lover.
Pat was a teacher until the unfortunate incident, and now resides with his parents who are trying to keep him from becoming crazier then he already is. His disorder is at its worst during stressful situations, such as going through a divorce.
Just when it seems Pat’s life couldn’t get any more complicated, in walks dark-haired, beautiful complication Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence).
Tiffany is a young widow who first dealt with her grief by sleeping with everyone she works with. She now passes her time as an aspiring dancer. If ever two people should not be together in a film, Pat and Tiffany represent that dynamic — at first.
Screenwriter and director David Russell (using a novel by Matthew Quick) takes a page from crazy and builds it into a story that’s fully character-driven. With most films, the audience is lucky to get one memorable character.
But in Silver Linings, every character plays a type and comes alive — such as the older man with obsessive-compulsive disorder, or the woman so consumed with being the perfect wife and mother that she’s suffocating her husband, or the husband who’s so busy trying to please his wife that he’s letting her suffocate him.
These characters represent a real family of dysfunction that thrives on un-normalcy and coming together with their truth — that truth being that dysfunction is the new normal. Of course, if these characters were actually normal in the traditional sense, they would be boring. Dysfunction usually plays well with comedic audiences.
Cooper’s Pat has no filter when it comes to saying what’s on his mind. Despite his being not-quite-right-in-the-head, one can’t help but wonder what goes on in that jumbled brain of his. So it’s refreshing to hear him speak his mind with nary a twitch of regret; just open honesty. Pat makes un-normal people feel sane.
Lawrence’s Tiffany, likewise, is an uninhibited young woman with a knack for blatant honesty, showing Pat who she is and not apologizing for it. In a climate where women are being celebrated cinematically, it’s nice to see another heroine own her feelings and actions without fretting over whether her audience will like her.
There’s a little Tiffany in all of us and we are much better women because of it.
Chris Tucker takes his usual comedic turn as Danny, Pat’s friend from the Karel Psychiatric Facility in Baltimore. Danny is always finding ways to get out of the facility and gently muscles his way into Pat’s family, as well as the hearts of the audience.
The question remains, though: When will Tucker start making more comedies? He’s funnier than half of the actors trying to be funny in not-so-funny comedies based on a television show/classic film/book/comic book/fill-in-the-blank.
A slimmed-down Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver play Pat’s parents, Pat Sr. and Dolores, respectively.
De Niro’s Pat Sr. tries to find a happy medium between his obsessive compulsive disorder and the Philadelphia Eagles’ winning season — calling it “father-son time.” But the audience knows better and we see how Pat has come to be such a mess.
Like father, like son.
Weaver’s Dolores always looks like she’s two seconds away from breaking down and falling apart. She’s trying to hold her family together, despite a husband with OCD and a son with bipolar disorder, which looks tiring.
A mother’s work is never done.
The best thing about Silver Linings Playbook, other than its great characters and character study, is its ability to be a good film that’s different. There’s no Hollywood glamour attached to it; it’s just a real story based on the journey from what’s taken away to what is gained.
The Silver Lining is that it’s also a story of two people falling in imperfect love.
*Kimberly Grant can be reached at: KAliciaG@aol.com or facebook/fashgirl83