Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell, 2012)

What's it about? After spending a while in a mental institution, Pat (Bradley Cooper) returns home to stay with his parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver) and is determined his new optimistic outlook will result in a reconciliation with his estranged wife. His new friend Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who has her own issues following the death of her husband, agrees to help him achieve his goal, but only if he will partner her in an upcoming dance competition.


Is it any good? It's presumably been noted before, but this is Dirty Dancing, isn't it? Only that the lead character is a boy struggling to cope with mental health issues, parental approval and anger management, rather than a girl struggling to cope with adolescent issues, parental approval and statutory rape? But that's okay; I like Dirty Dancing, and I liked this, thanks mainly to the winning performances which make up for a slightly contrived plot. Although Lawrence took home the Oscar for Best Actress, it's actually Cooper that is the real surprise here, delivering a much more nuanced performance than one might have expected from his previous one-note performances in the likes of The Hangover and The A-Team. He is excellent here and his performance in particular goes a long way to selling the film - he even seems to have inspired De Niro into acting well again. That said, I find Jennifer Lawrence altogether more attractive, so I'm going to sing her praises for yet another excellent performance, even though she runs kinda funny and her grandstanding 'football speech' is the only really false note in the film.  All in all, I'm not convinced it's the most original or innovative film (in fact, isn't this also the basic plot of Teen Wolf, if I'm not mistaken?), and Silver Linings does have a cloud in that it feels rather forced toward the end in building to a feel-good climax. Nevertheless, it's still an assured romantic comedy-drama, with characters that ring true and are worth caring about, and I enjoyed it.

I don't trust you. What do others think? Well received all round, with many impressed that a star-laden, mainstream Hollywood movie had managed to tackle mental illness without trivializing, exploiting or sensationalizing the subject. Awards and a healthy box-office duly followed as it built up good word-of-mouth recommendations. Not everyone was taken with it, though. Passion Pit frontman Michael Angelakos, who suffers from bipolar disorder, took to Twitter to slam the film's cheap use of mental illness as legs for plot. But I wouldn't pay much attention to him - he's mad. Mad, I say!

What does the Fonz think? Mental note: catch up with this film.





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