Film Review: Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings PlaybookMental illness and family issues are clearly very close to director David O Russell’s heart having dealt with them in some of his previous films, namely The Fighter and I Heart Huckabees. It is also known that he has personal experience of mental illness with his son, which makes Silver Linings Playbook perhaps his most personal film yet.

Pat (Bradley Cooper) has just been released from a mental hospital following a breakdown after he caught his wife having an affair. He meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) who has her own problems after the death of her husband and subsequent firing from her job after sleeping around the office. Pat still believes that he and his ex-wife are meant to be together and Tiffany agrees to help him in exchange for him being her partner in a dance competition. Meanwhile, Pat’s father, Pat Sr., is struggling with to come to terms with life with a mentally ill son.

It can be difficult to handle the subject of mental illness subtly in film, particularly in mainstream cinema where things often have to be explicitly spelled out. However, Silver Linings Playbook manages to portray mental illness in a realistic and sensitive way without resorting to straight jackets and in doing so elevates the film way above the standard of the usual ‘romantic comedy’ that it was so wrongly marketed as. The ordinary suburban setting also helps to bring a much more grounded feel to the film, reminding you that mental illness is something that can occur in each and every family.

Silver Linings Playbook is still a film that could have easily descended into mediocrity were it not for the outstanding performances from just about every cast member. Bradley Cooper successfully shrugs off his The Hangover image and gives a superb, wholly believable performance that shows just what he can do with the right role. He manages to convey both the subtle and more drastic sides of mental illness with a deftness many may not have thought him capable. Similarly, Jennifer Lawrence delivers a fine performance and perfectly conveys Tiffany’s constant battle with herself. Lawrence has shown some intelligent role choices already and looks set for truly big things.

Backing up these two excellent leads are some equally impressive supporting performances. Jacki Weaver is beautifully understated as Pat’s mother Delores, whilst Chris Tucker is entertaining as Danny, a friend of Pat’s from the hospital. However, it’s Robert DeNiro as Pat’s father who shines perhaps brightest of all. Pat Sr has his own demons to battle and is clearly not sure how to cope with a mentally ill son. He clearly feels helpless but his willingness to help and unconditionally love his son is truly touching.

Whilst the vast majority of the film strays away from usual rom-com fare, it does revert to type slightly towards the end, although by this point it has earned its ending and gives a payoff most viewers will appreciate and understand. Silver Linings Playbook deserves to be seen to act as proof that romantic comedies can be clever, thought-provoking and can tackle serious subject matter.

4 and a half pigeons

4.5/5 pigeons

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26 thoughts on “Film Review: Silver Linings Playbook

  1. keith7198 says:

    The praise of SLP continues. I guess I’m going to have to break down and see it.

    • Yep, it was a massive surprise for me. I think it’s just been marketed wrong to be honest. All the ads have suggested it’s your common or garden rom com but it’s not. Even the poster puts the word ‘playbook’ in tiny letters to emphasise the ‘silver linings’ part to suggest the happy happy joy joy of a rom com.

  2. ckckred says:

    Nice review. I was surprised how much I enjoyed this film as well. Lawrence was great in her role and De Niro gives his best performance in years.

    • Cheers 🙂 It was definitely DeNiro’s best role in quite a while. He was in danger of becoming a once great actor who now took awful roles but he’s pulled it back with this one. If he wins the Oscar I wouldn’t say it was undeserved.

  3. CMrok93 says:

    Kept me smiling the whole time and a movie I won’t ever forget. Mainly because, it was filmed right around my area and made me happy to be an Eagles fan. That rarely happens. Good review.

    • Cheers Dan. That must have been pretty awesome to be so invested in the film. The whole American Football thing went over my head slightly but it was an interesting part of the film. Glad to hear you liked it so much, I already want to see it again which shows how good it must have been.

  4. ruth says:

    Yay, we share the same rating Chris. O. Russell certainly has a knack for capturing quirky family dynamics! I really like this film, though I think I’m more impressed by Lawrence than De Niro, to me she’s the star of the film. Glad to see De Niro in a role worthy of his talent though.

  5. Mark Walker says:

    Great stuff Chris. As you already know, I conpletely agree. 4.5 is the correct rating for it as well and likewise, I feel DeNiro shone the brightest. Marvellous little film. Perfect write-up man.

  6. I agree Chris, this was a great flick. It definitely rose above the Rom Com genre.

    The cast was great, they deserve all the accolades they got!

    • The cast is what really made it I think, there wasn’t a weak link in my opinion. That’s been reflected in that the film is up for all the acting categories at the Oscars and I really hope someone gets something. Out of all of them, my money’s on Lawrence.

  7. sati says:

    Glad you liked this movie so much! It’s my favorite among BP nominees, I agree De Niro was just fantastic – it would be awesome if he won his 3rd Oscar for his performance.

  8. Great review, man! I loved this film so much. The acting was incredible.

    Completely agree with this: “manages to portray mental illness in a realistic and sensitive way without resorting to straight jackets”.

  9. vinnieh says:

    Great review, I’m going to see this ASAP.

  10. Hooray for yoga pants!

    I started blubbering up like a baby a few times watching this film. As with most romcoms I thought I was going to hate this film. Instead it turned out that this was one of the best films I watched this year. Nice write up.

    • Yoga pants FTW! Ha!
      Thanks very much, it was probably one of my favourites too and that was probably because of how much it surprised me. It completely drew me in and I think much of that was down to the performances; I thought everyone was fantastic in it.

  11. Great review! such a fantastic film. loved how it played out. Glad to see DeNiro in a decent role given some of his more recent choices. I liked everyone’s performance although I gotta say I didn’t think Weaver’s performance was Oscar-nom worthy.

    • Thanks man, yeah it was great to finally see DeNiro get his teeth into a role again. I actually liked Weaver, I thought she was she played the helpless mother perfectly. She was a much needed slice of ‘normal’ compared to everyone’s crazy.

  12. I really enjoyed this one. Bradley Cooper surprised me with his performance – well deserving of his awards nominations. I thought Jennifer Lawrence was great too and the pair really sparked. I was a bit disappointed with the more conventional ending but I agree with you that the film earned its feel good finale. Great review.

    • Both Lawrence and Cooper really were excellent and I think Cooper in particular surprised a lot of people. He’s not really done a huge amount that has made him stand out but hopefully he can do after this. Yeah I was a little undecided about the ending. It ended pretty much how you expect it to end from the beginning but it would have been nice if it had just gone somewhere else. That said, can you really criticise a film’s ending that is based on a book?

  13. Mike says:

    Great Review

    I liked Cooper before, and have to admit I like The Hangover films, mainly as silly comedy films which I just like. But here in SLP he is on a different level than anything he’s done before. Lawrence also gives a superb performance, and the two of them together sparkle. The dance sequence is excellent.
    De Niro is superb as well. In fact all the cast give excellent performances, backed by a solid script.

    The ending is predictable, but one I think many people, myself included wanted, I really wanted these two to end up together.

    • Thanks Mike. All your points are spot on. I wanted the ending it gave us too. The rest of the film really made you want them both to be happy and that was probably the only way to do that. It’s such a great cast, everyone plays their part but I agree that Cooper arguably stood out the most as this was such a departure from what he’s known for.

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