To begin, Silver Linings Playbook (2012) was nominated for eight Oscars including Best Picture, Best Actor (Bradley Cooper), Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence), Supporting Actor and Actress (Robert De Niro and Jackie Weaver), and director (David O. Russell).
SLP begins as a film tackling mental illness and the ways a person’s psyches can destroy their life and the lives around them. Then the film ends up being a cheesy croquette with an over-indulgent and gushy centre.
Pat (Cooper) is just released from the mental hospital and assures his mother, Dolores (Weaver) that everything is going to be OK. But based on her constant worried expression, we know she’s heard this statement many times before and without the expected result. Pat has been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder after nearly killing his wife’s lover and is refusing to take his medication due to the side effects and how they make him feel. The situation has gone from being potentially volatile to potentially dangerous. Determined to do anything possible to save his marriage (the issue that caused him to be incarcerated at the mental hospital), Pat’s mood swings are almost always manically upbeat until the conversation moves to his wife and repairing his marriage. He proves to be blindly in love and committed to do anything it’ll take to repair their marriage.
Pat Sr. (De Niro) is introduced as a man with a different type of mental illness, but one no one chooses to diagnose throughout the film. He has gambling addictions and can be viewed as OCD. Pat Sr.’s excessive yearning for his son Pat’s presence during Eagles games is just as unsettling as Pat waking up the household at four in the morning screaming about Hemingway. Although Pat Sr. wants to desperately help his son, he reinforces Pat’s crazy antics with his own. At the center of every argument and inquiry is Dolores. Instead of offering solutions, she is the loving mother who offers to compromise by making everyone’s favorite dishes if we all just settle down.
As the film builds its tension Pat is introduced to Tiffany (Lawrence) who is also battling her own mental issues with her recent husband’s sudden death. The two quickly connect in an opposites attract scenario and begin relying on one another to move on to the next phase of the their life. Tiffany realizes she can find friendship without having to sleep with someone, while Pat wants Tiffany to breach Pat’s wife’s restraining order and send her a letter Pat wrote. The two develop an interesting and basic relationship that usually includes him saying something inappropriate with her acting shocked only to then say something herself just as shocking.
The film leads us to believe that it is a drama about mental illness and then quickly shifts to an over the top romantic comedy. GROUP-HUG EVERYBODY! I was fully on board for the first hour until Tiffany pulls a mic-drop statistical breakdown on Pat Sr., causing him to suddenly realize his own shortcomings and become a changed man. I’m so sure.
Every year there is one film that is critically acclaimed that I just cannot stand. I think this film just replaced Argo as my choice for 2012 (past films include: The Help (2011), The King’s Speech (2010), Avatar (2009), Slumdog Millionaire (2008)). David O. Russell has proven he is an actor’s director. He can bring in a slew of great talents (he got Chris Tucker!) and gets great performances out of them. This was easily the best film for Cooper who nailed his role in so many ways that he should have won best actor. Lawrence, however, should have won for Winter’s Bone (2010) and instead received a make-up award in this year’s ceremony. I don’t even think she should have been nominated for this role. Her character was there to do nothing other than look good and be snarky. Lastly, this was also the best film De Niro has been a part of since The Score (2001), and I can see why he was nominated.
Overall, the film is very well acted and the first half of the movie is very good, but the safe ending kind of killed it for me.