Cinematic Thoughts for Cinematic Minds
Director: David O. Russell
Now let’s get two things straight before we start YES this film is romantic and YES this film is in- part a comedy but in no way, shape or form should it be judged as simply a ‘rom-com’. To put it into a bracket is to wrongly do so for Silver Linings Playbook is one of the surprise hits of 2012.
The story is based upon Matthew Quick’s novel which follows Pat (Cooper) who has recently been released from a mental hospital and taken home by his long suffering mother Dolores (Weaver). The reason for Pat’s incarceration is revealed to us and we learn of his bi-polar disorder and that this and his wife’s adultery led to a violent break down of their marriage enforcing a restraining order to be evoked Due to this Pat moves home to his parent’s house where he aims to get in shape and read his wife’s entire teaching syllabus in an aim to show her that he is a better person and that they can be happily married once more. Pat’s life is then thrown into chaos as he is introduced to the uncanny Tiffany (Lawrence) and as soon as the pair meet there are sparks but sparks that take a long time to materialize because Tiffany has problem’s all of her own. Balancing his troubled emotions, the desperate appeals of his father Pat Sr. (De Niro) to spend quality father- son time watching football and an impending dance competition Pat’s life will never be the same again but will it be with his wife or with Tiffany that his future lies?… we don’t do spoilers so go and see for yourself.
Where to start with an analysis of this film? We have our work cut out because its phenomenally good…
Director David O. Russell is well known for films such as Three Kings and The Fighter and takes the helm here on what could be the jewel in the crown of his career so far. It appears that Russell has got the knack for producing excellent films without much expectation. The Fighter was possibly one of the best received films of 2010 shooting in under the radar, a truly heart rendering account of the life and career of boxer ‘Irish’ Mickey Ward. The film attracted high acclaim for its excellent cast performances which ended in Oscar nominations for Christian Bale as Ward’s drug addict brother and Amy Adams as Wards tough talking girlfriend. It’s always a nice surprise to find out that a director who is responsible for one of your favourite films then directed another film you highly enjoyed, in that moment you say “oh so that’s why it was so good”… and what Russell has achieved here deserves the same credit, if not more, than his last film. He directs with great sensitivity making the story one that is highly believeable and truly touching.
To the performances; Bradley Cooper surprisingly in a career turn around pulls of the greatest performance off his career to date. Long are forgotten the roles of Phil in The Hangover and The Face in the god awful re- make of The A- Team. His background in comedy does aid his portrayal of Pat but he has another level in his acting arsenal and he puts it to good effect here. The temptation to go over board with the effects of bi- polar could have been tempting, however Cooper plays the role expertly showing that he has done is homework and that to be diagnosed with something of this caliber does not mean your life is over. Yes it can be hard and upsetting at times but it is a manageable condition.
Jennifer Lawrence practically steals the show as Tiffany, who as stated before has problems all of her own to deal with as well as Pat’s. But it is this that helps her reach out to Pat, she knows how to speak to him in moments of rage and calm him down. The connection between them is instantaneous, they are an odd pair but they work… in a dis-functional way. Tiffany when we meet her is still reeling from the death of her husband Tommy, and confesses in a scene you’d mistake for comedy how she turned to a life of sex and alcohol in the aftermath of his death. Initially you may laugh but her story is one of a person with little self worth and in a deep state of depression. Pat becomes the project to divert her from her previous mistakes and from this their love grows. Lawrence is already making a big name for herself after roles in X- Men First Class as a young Mystique and in the hugely successful Hunger Games as Katniss Everdeen. An impressice CV to say the least and one strengthened by her depiction in this film.
Robert De Niro… heard of him?
De Niro plays Pat’s father Pat Sr. and is truly back on form here. These days he tends to play whatever role he feels like but in Silver Lining’s we get the feel of the De Niro of old, his performance throws us back to films like Taxi Driver or Mean Streets he isn’t playing a tough gangster but his effect on the film holds a similar gravitas. Pat Sr. through the films course is attempting to bet his life savings on his beloved team The Philadelphia Eagles in a bid to raise enough money to build his own Philly- cheese steak restaurant. He believes in fate and luck which he places on Pat, Pat is his ‘lucky charm’. We don’t truly understand the thought process behind this endeavor until he breaks down to Pat in one of the films truly heart breaking scenes. The two bounce off of each other so expertly it will bring you to tears.
Without rambling on for too long a note has to be made of the rest of the cast here. Jacki Weaver is superb as Pat’s mother, the strain put upon the family is played through her. Chris Tucker as Pat’s best friend from the hospital adds light relief at times when the film looks to be getting too dark. John Ortiz as Ronnie Pat’s domestic best friend who is suffering under the constraints of a dull middle class life works in a similar way as does Anupam Ker’s Dr. Patel, Pat’s therapist. Look out for him at the football game… you are guaranteed to laugh.
All in all Silver Lining’s is quite simply a very real story, at no point do we begin to doubt the story or its developments and its this sense of reality that is its main selling point. The fine line between distress and comedy is drawn to perfection. Just when we think its getting too dark we are pulled back with humour and just when things are going well they are interrupted leaving us waiting for a resolution right up until the film’s conclusion. What it teaches us is that ultimately, on the grand scale of things, our lives are not as bad as we may make out sometimes. We all suffer heartache and pain but if Pat and Tiffany can find the silver lining in their cloud then we can as well.