Don’t let anyone fool you, Silver Linings Playbook is a romantic comedy. Sure, it’s one of those male-centered rom-com (i.e. Playing for Keeps); but it still retains all the elements of the genre. No matter how much director David O. Russell (who also adapted the film from the Matthew Quick novel) tries to obscure the genre, the last ten minutes of the film are so quintessentially rom-com that he loses that battle.
Pat (Bradley Cooper) was institutionalized after violently abusing his wife’s lover (turns out he’s bi-polar, not just an angry husband). His mother, Dolores (Jacki Weaver), busts him out of the mental institution, to bring him back home to his father, Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro), who is a gambling addict that suffers from superstitious OCD. He wants his son to spend “family time” with him, which consists of watching football games while holding a special handkerchief to help his team win. Pat, of course, wants none of that; he’s too busy trying to win back the love of his wife, Nikki (Brea Bee) who currently has a restraining order out against him.
To help him, Pat enlists Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) whom he meets through his friend Ronnie (John Ortiz) and his bougie wife, Veronica (a deliciously entertaining Julia Stiles). Tiffany and Veronica are friends with Nikki, and Tiffany agrees to slip her a letter from Pat (breaking his restraining order) in exchange for his help in dancing with her at a big dance event. Tiffany recently took up dancing to cope with her manic depression that resulted from her husband’s death.
There’s certainly enough in this plot to make it an amusing film, but problems with the film’s execution quickly begin to arise. Whatever likeability Cooper brings to Pat is soon lost as his flaws are proudly displayed. His bi-polar disorder apparently gives him the right to walk about speaking unfiltered thoughts to anyone within 10-foot radius; it also means he’s violently aggressive at the drop of a hat. This results mostly in him and Pat Sr. devolving into shouting matches that frequently turn violent, which happen about every 5-8 minutes. Lastly, his obsession with getting back together with his wife feels even crazier than his anger management skills. Why would he want to be with a woman who would cheat on him (with an ugly, older man, no less) and file a restraining order against him for defending his husbandly honor? And why should we, as an audience, care about this at all if we don’t even meet Nikki until the last 15 minutes of the film?
Other questions abound, as well. Why would Dolores take her son out of the mental health facility if she were just going to cower in the corner adding her frightened whimpers to the cacophony of noises produce by the arguing men? How does Officer Keogh (Dash Mihok) always show up one minute after Pat starts feeling enraged (that scene in front of the movie theater is utterly ridiculous)? Does Pat own any clothes that aren’t sweat suits and jerseys? And are we supposed to revel in the foibles of these crazy people or feel sorry for their psychiatric plights?
Of course, these questions go greatly unanswered in this thinly plotted film (over half the film is spent rehashing the same basic plot points like a broken record). Yet if Cooper is too erratic and De Niro too obsessive, then Lawrence is the film’s saving grace. She plays up the character’s mental issues while still being a relatable character. Her actions are believable (if predictable); and her chemistry with Cooper is palpable (yet another reason why it is hard to believe he could still be obsessed with Nikki). But not even Lawrence could save this film from being a miserable headache of a film.
- ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ – Reading Is Believing (wbur.org)
- In ‘Silver Linings Playbook,’ Lawrence Is Golden (npr.org)
- Movie Review: Silver Linings Playbook  (twscritic.com)