Silver Linings Playbook (2012) Directed by David O. Russell. With Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver and Chris Tucker.
David O. Russell is steadily becoming the Tom Hanks of directors. His films are loved by the people, the box-office, the critics and come awards season, he’s always a contender for ‘Best’ whatever. Silver Linings Playbook (whatever that means) is no exception, grabbing awards and ringing cash registers while cementing O. Russell’s position as one of Hollywood’s most reliable producers of easily digestible, awkward subject matter.
Co-starring two immensely popular and likeable leads, – Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence – ‘SLP’ (to avoid typing that stupid title over and over again) somehow manages to be an engaging, humorous and cosy tale of people dealing with extreme mental health issues. Really? You might ask. Well, yes it is…just about. In essence, SLP is a drama/comedy (flip those two around at will) that isn’t interested in looking too hard in to the abyss of the psychological warfare that often ruins lives and rips families to shreds. No, this is like a mental health film for ‘Meet the Parents‘ fans, which even manges to shoehorn De Niro in, as an eccentric, disapproving father figure.
Sounds pretty awful, right? Well, it isn’t. Against all my natural impulses, I actually found myself enjoying it. Somehow, though, I wasn’t sure if I ought to feel guilty about that. The reality of mental illness is that it is not a quick fix, and it certainly isn’t something that you expect to be tied-up into a 2hour, neat Hollywood bow, which is exactly what SLP attempts to do.
Like most cinema, what you bring to a film often determines your overall enjoyment. If you approach SLP expecting the Citizen Kane of mental health films, you’ll be ranting about it for months afterwards, but if you go in wanting to be charmed by some first class Hollywood performances and some amusing dialogue, you’ll come away in a fairly sunny mood, more or less oblivious to the gradually pervading sense of schmaltz.
One thing is for sure. Cooper and Lawrence and are an absolute hit in their central roles, sparring and playing off of each other to perfection. Of course, they’re both beautiful and charming people, but they also happen to be fantastic actors, and like much of O. Russell’s work, the film is held aloft by the towering strength of its savvy performances, over any kind of gripping narrative or involving subject matter. 4/5