Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

It's probably an affront to my manhood how much I enjoyed Silver Linings Playbook, and that's coming from someone whose list of favourite films includes Eternal Sunshine, Garden State and Lost in Translation. I'm in pretty good company though, seeing as it's currently sat at 92% on RottenTomatoes.com (82% among top critics) and has eight Academy Awards nominations, one of which it could easily be in for.

The bulk of the film is standard rom-com fare, but it's done very, very well. The edge comes from director and screenwriter David O. Russell's willingness to play with touchy subjects like mental illness, family troubles and death to produce comedy. The film doesn't make light of those things, but accepts that funny things can happen in those situations, much like how 50/50 masterfully wove comedy into the touching story of a battle with cancer. The story revolves around two messed up people, who are surrounded by people who are just as messed up but in more socially acceptable ways.

Pat (Bradley Cooper) has recently been released after an 8 month stint in a psychiatric hospital following an incident involving his wife that resulted in a restraining order and the stay in the hospital. He is recovering and trying to "fix" himself for his wife when he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who herself has recently lost her husband, who he thinks can help him get his wife back.

Praise needs to go to the supporting cast, including Robert DeNiro as Pat's compassionate yet OCD riddled father, John Ortiz as Pat's friend who struggles through every day of his marriage and Chris Tucker as Pat's lovable but manic friend Danny, who he met in the hospital. But the real praise needs to be reserved for the two leads. Bradley Cooper does an outstanding job of giving life to Pat and portraying both sides of his bipolar disorder with tact and authenticity. The enthusiastic rambling and lack of a verbal filter in his ups and the anger  and restlessness in his downs are equally as touching and given their due attentions without defining the Pat simply as his illness. It's his passion for his new "silver linings" outlook and his determination to do right by the people he loves are what defines him. If there's anything that tops Bradley Cooper in this film, it's Jennifer Lawrence. Tiffany is for once, a more complex character for a rom-com. She's really messed up, thanks in no small part to how she lost her husband and her lack of support in dealing with it, but seems okay with this and accepts it as who she is. It's the confidence that comes from the self-awareness, with only a few lapses into vulnerability, that endears Tiffany to the audience. Jennifer Lawrence gives a frankly amazing performance in Silver Linings; with brilliant comedic timing, an ear for the perfect voice for the character and pure acting talent, Jennifer Lawrence seizes the title of best young actress in Hollywood with this film, for me at least. Personally, it's a two horse race between Lawrence and Chastain for Best Actress this year, but what do I know?

It might not be bouncing off or subverting all the usual tropes of the Rom Com genre, but Silver Linings, with its polished script, shining performances and sterling devotion to telling a genuine love story, delivers on all fronts.

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