by Latoya Burnham
I’ve been trying to remember when I’ve last seen a movie I absolutely loved but which left me with a host of unsettling and confusing feelings that I cannot even name.
Silver Linings Playbook was such a film. Starring Bradley Cooper and recent Golden Globe Best Actress Jennifer Lawrence, the film is the ultimate drama. It has loads of awkward situations; it makes you want to yell at the screen; and most importantly, it makes you ask some questions about yourself and exactly what is mental illness.
In the plot, Cooper is former teacher Pat Solitano, who after a stint in a mental institution is checked out, against the advice of his doctors, by his mom Dolores (Jacki Weaver). He then moves back in with his parents [dad is Pat Sr. aka Robert De Niro] and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany (Lawrence), a mysterious girl with problems of her own.
Sounds like a recipe for disaster? It kinda is.
Cooper as Pat delivers, I believe the performance of his life. The only other time I can remember seeing him this good in recent times was in Limitless, and I even had a friend remark after seeing it how underrated he still is as an actor. It is clear that Pat has issues in this film. They tell you he is an undiagnosed bipolar in the film and perhaps here is where I should warn about spoilers in this review. As the film goes on, through the relationship he establishes with his therapist and then watching the goings on with his best friend Ronnie and his dad, it seems evident that perhaps part of the reason he went undiagnosed for so long is because everyone around him is just a little bit crazy in their own way. And forgive me for having used the “c” word, but in this movie it is pretty apt.
We have Pat Sr., whom it is clear as the crystal skies, suffers with perhaps as well, undiagnosed OCD. His son remarks on it several times in the unfolding of the movie and you get to see how acute it gets and how he mistreats his son, whom you also have no doubt that he loves very much. But when his episodes hit, it is almost like walking on eggshells in the home and trying not to make it worse.
Which brings us to mom Dolores. She is a woman trying to keep her family together at all cost and believes the best place for her son to heal is at home. So unknown to her husband, she brings her son home from the mental institution and spends the rest of the movie running interference when the two men she loves have minute breakdowns. She is painted in the film as the ultimate housewife, who recognises the challenges her husband and son are facing and have faced, but who nevertheless is determined to create the stable environment by mediating small concessions between the two. So when her husband believes that Pat’s presence will ensure his bookie job goes well and his team wins games, she tries her best to convince her son to “spend quality time” with his father during the games. Each negotiation will make you shake your head a bit in consternation.
Then comes the best friend, who is married to Veronica (Julia Stiles), a woman who is living way above the family’s means and who is practically the “man of the house in her marriage”. It results in her husband having to take small moments to himself, listening to Metallica and doing other little “insane” things to keep his own sanity, with Pat constantly telling him he has to keep his marriage together.
And that in essence is where Lawrence as Tiffany comes in. She is acquainted with Pat, but they are forced into a dinner together at Veronica’s behest, which goes very, very badly. But the two then start spending time together and their chemistry, so off-kilter, is what keeps you glued to the television, because here are the single two people in the movie who are supposed to be mentally unstable but together their “insanity” makes absolute sense. So rather than trying to change each other as everyone in their lives tries to do, they are comfortable with their eccentricities and it works – it really works.
So what you have is a film where everyone, simply everyone is just a little bit insane at times, which ends up keeping them sane in a strange roundabout way. It makes you think about some of the little crazy things you do sometimes, whether to blow off steam or just because you feel like it, that after you’ve done it actually makes you feel so much more centred and better for it. So yeah, go see this film when it gets here. It might just be your crazy moment of release.