Reviewing ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ – David O. Russell’s Oscar Nominated Work

Robert De Niro at the premiere of Baby Mama in...

Robert Deniro plays Pat Sr. In Silver Linings Playbook(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Summary: Cooper Plays Pat With Such Believability We Begin Pitying His Character, So Much That We Are Left Dissatisfied With The Resolution The Film Offers Him

There is a thin line of difference between ‘eccentric’ and ‘unstable’: Pat Solitano, a victim of bi-polar disorder behaved more unstable than eccentric or quirky, and so I pitied him instead of loving him. Bradley Cooper has Pat’s uncontrollable anxiety down to a tee and he plays his character with great sincerity because of which we sympathize with him all the more. Silver Lining Playbook’s humor seemed more dark than quirky in the first half, and when the director David O. Russell brings in the screwball comedy post intermission, I was a tad disappointed because I was looking forward to a better resolution for Pat’s dilemma. Maybe Cooper should have performed his character with less believability and more stylization, and then I may have laughed with him all along. But since the actor plays every moment of his character with utmost sincerity and believability, I could not laugh at his actions and behavior before intermission. I pitied him, I prayed for him, I had a lump in my throat when he began screaming at the top of his lungs in the middle of the night, but I did not laugh much.

I was howling with laughter when Tom Ewell played Richard Sherman in Seven Year Itch. I almost fell off my couch watching Billy Wilder and Tony Curtis play two impersonators in Some like It Hot. I fell in love with screwball romantic comedies like Awful Truth and Send Me No Flowers. In none of the films did the protagonists invoke pity right from scene one. Maybe Cooper, despite his impressive efforts, isn’t the right choice for a genre like this. His co-star Jennifer Lawrence is ideally cast though because we do not sympathize with her in the beginning; she plays her part in a manner where we gradually fall in love with her eccentricities and then care for her when it seems she won’t achieve her desire. This imbalance Cooper creates manifests strongly in the second half when the situation goes berserk – that is when the artificiality sickens us instead of charming us and our interest in the characters and the plot dwindles right up to the very end.

Silver Lining Playbook has a winsome premise involving bi-polar disorder patient Pat’s release from mental institution and subsequent endeavor by him to ignore all negativity and set his life back on track keeping the motto ‘Excelsior!’ in mind. Pat’s main objective is to get his wife Nikki back, who refuses to meet him and has a restraining order against him after he almost beat her paramour to death after the two were caught making love in the shower. He is not encouraged by his parents to do so and so when he gets to know that his friend’s wife’s younger sister Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) can help him by delivering messages to Nikki, he becomes friends with her. But Tiffany has her own problems – suffering from depression ever since her husband died, she spent a long time having sex with almost all her co-workers (women included) at her job until she was kicked out. Even now, she is extremely impulsive and volatile and she only agrees to deliver Pat’s letter to Nikki if he partners her for a dance competition. Pat’s father on the other hand suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder and he spends his entire time gambling on football team Philadelphia Eagles after losing his job so that he can buy a new restaurant with the money he gets. Things take a surprising turn when Pat Sr., who believes his son is the luck factor for his winning streak, loses his bet money and it coincides with Pat Jr.’s scuffle at the game; Pat Sr. then decides to parlay with his rival where if i) Eagles wins against Dallas and ii) Pat Jr. and Tiffany get a minimum 5 points in their dance competition, then the family shall recover all the money lost on the first bet.

Frankly, the entire football segment with Pat, his elder brother and the American-Indians, and the parlay segment were lame. A big issue I had was the inclusion of Pat’s brother in the movie, who served little purpose than to slight his sibling whenever he could and then react to his father’s parlay. I was slightly disquieted the moment Tiffany said ‘dance with me’ but that was nothing compared to the disappointment I felt watching every character break loose and trying to sound as if they really cared about that silly ‘parlay’. The part where Tiffany wakes in during the fight and starts reproaching Pat for skipping rehearsals would’ve suited the old films mentioned in the first paragraph, but doesn’t look good in this film. Everything after the parlay scene went downhill, and although it was funny to see the how the events turned up, I was yet dissatisfied by the resolution provided to Cooper’s character in the film.

In supporting roles are Jackie Weaver, Robert De Niro, Anupam Kher and Chris Tucker. Jackie Weaver speaks more with her eyes and makes it clear that she loves her family to death despite all their oddities. Robert De Niro is perfectly fine except he sounded (only sounded) weirdly like Tommy Wiseau from the disastrous 2003 film The Room at times and that distracted me. Anupam Kher in the role of Pat’s therapist Dr. Cliff Patel is alright, but I was stunned when how his character responded to the parlay situation at Pat’s home. Chris Tucker is very likable and very funny as the hair-obsessed buddy of Patrick. David O Russell maintains the quick-shifting pace throughout using cuts, zooms and hand-held camera. Yet, on the basis of the impression I got from the first half and the changing impression I got after interval, I was left unconvinced whether Pat had really attained his silver lining.

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