Silver Linings Playbook sticks to the formula
Starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert De Niro. Rated 14A. Now playing
The title here refers to a mental guide dreamed up by recently discharged psychiatric patient Pat, played convincingly by Bradley Cooper. Having flipped out at the demise of his troubled marriage, Pat has been released into the care of his parents, an overindulgent mom (Jacki Weaver) and a bookie dad (Robert De Niro) whose fixation on hometown Philadelphia Eagles is part of his own OCD personality.
Currently, Pat possesses that special clarity that only comes from going off your meds. This worries his folks and his outpatient therapist (Anupam Kher), who keeps exhorting the former substitute teacher to “get a strategy” for actual life.
No one can accuse writer-director David O. Russell of lacking strategy. He has veered wildly in films as different as Flirting With Disaster, Three Kings, I Heart Huckabees, and The Fighter, but he is now firmly in people-pleasing mode. And, dammit, he’s not going to let anyone keep his attractive characters from finding happiness, plus more balance in their amusingly off-centre lifestyles.
Thus it is that a married friend (Julia Stiles) matches Pat with her sister, Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who has some mental-health issues of her own. The foul-mouthed Tiff—a recent widow with a libido problem—has just entered a dance contest and needs a new partner. Wonder how that will play out?
Cooper and Lawrence have engaging chemistry, but the movie is so dogged in its determination to keep them together that the iffy couple’s adorable football-versus-ballroom bickering quickly becomes tiresome. It’s got The Fighter’s family dysfunction, with fewer fisticuffs and bad dance scenes instead.
Anyway, the problems in Playbook lack the pain of real mental illness, and we’re left only with the cute side of this distress.
Watch the trailer for Silver Linings Playbook.