Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook

David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook returns to his madcap comedy roots with a bittersweet relationship dramedy that, on the surface, may seem like a conventional boy meets girl pic but underneath this façade, is really about two flawed, near-ostracized characters that are desperate to find a way to move on after personal setbacks.

The cast is headlined by two of today’s most recognizable new faces – Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence – and while both have received their fare share of praise for previous roles, it is here that they display not just stupendous amounts of raw chemistry but also exhibit some great acting chops. As Pat, Cooper has the more difficult task, to make his neurotic, bi-polar character appear not just interesting or appealing but likeable. Released after an 8 month spell at a mental institution for beating up the man who was having an affair with his wife Nikki (now ex), he is fixated on getting back with her. During the film’s meet cute, Pat is invited by a friend to dinner so that he can be introduced to Tiffany, the volatile, promiscuous, recently widowed sister of his friend’s wife. They don’t exactly hit it off on their first encounter but still continue to explore their new found friendship because they can relate to each other due to an odd commonality – their self destructive behaviour.

Damaged goods don’t exactly make for the right ingredients when preparing a romantic comedy, which if this film were to be classified, is really what it is, but Russell works like a magician in turning what sounds rather tepid into something extraordinarily satisfying, even unique. The reason for this is quite evident if you consider that most modern romantic movies are alike. Their leads are either suave ladies men (think Matthew McConaughey or some variation) or quirky, wise-crackers (Michael Cera territory). In the way Bradley Cooper plays him, Pat is neither, but he is genuine and his fears, anxieties and personal desires make him relatable and real. Lawrence, who gets the best lines and the loudest, most showy scenes, reminds us why she won accolades for her breakthrough role in Winter’s Bone by being disarmingly confident making her the most arresting character to watch in what is a uniformly excellent ensemble.

The film’s themes tackle some of the director’s past indulgences including a recurring motif – the drama of the dysfunctional family. Like he did with his acclaimed film The Fighter and also unmistakably with Flirting with Disaster, his screenplay is goofy and frivolous with many scenes that are about nothing in particular, almost random but held together and utterly engaging to watch, like the one where Pat and Tiffany go for a date at an ordinary diner and order tea and bran flakes. The film doesn’t just play for laughs, it handles the displaced reality of its leads carefully and a moment of father son bonding allows even Robert De Niro, as Pat’s football crazy dad, to prove that he still has it in him. In all of this, the only scene that rings false is the one where the characters step out of the world that Russell creates for them and enter the confines of a football stadium. This leads to a slapstick moment straight out of television sitcoms – a forgivable detour in an otherwise stellar film that breaks rules even while it slips into convention with its crowd pleasing end.

Rating: ★★★★½

About Faizan Rashid

A veteran Dubai based film critic, Faizan has been reviewing movies for nearly a decade. His work has been published in local newspapers such as 7days and on prestigious online websites such as MSN Arabia and