Our protagonist, Pat Solatano (Bradley Cooper), loses everything: his house, job, and wife. He starts to live again with his mother (Jacki Weaver) and father (Robert De Niro) after spending eight months in a mental institution and reaching an agreement with the prosecution. Pat is determined to rebuild his life, maintain a positive attitude and reconcile with his wife, despite the particular circumstances of their separation.
When Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a mysterious girl with problems of her own, things gets complicated. Tiffany offers to help Pat get his wife back, but only if he does something in return that is very important to her. As they fulfill their respective parts of the deal, an unexpected bond begins to form between them, and little by little, they discover the positive sides of their lives.
A long-suffering mother, Dolores Solitano, without telling her husband, decides to take care of her son Pat and get him out of the psychiatric institution where he has been staying for eight months. Pat, a history teacher at a high school, has bipolar disorder (like the director’s son), a disease that breaks out when he discovers his wife taking a shower with one of his colleagues. Dolores wants her son to recover, and Pat just wants to show his wife that he can get back to him. On the way, young Tiffany shows up, a recent widow who has her own mental problems.
The story has lots of elements; the family’s passion for the Philadelphia Eagles; the constant runs of the protagonist wrapped in a garbage bag to sweat and burn calories (a metaphor for everything around him) and a, “vintage” dance contest, which also has its place in a surprising plot. Without forgetting the policeman who appears in the most desperate moments, the successful brother who is jealous of the little boy, and the Indian therapist checking the condition of his patient Pat with the music of his wedding, which gives him a tough time.
The film is written and directed by David O. Russell, one of the most influential American authors in the Hollywood scene. It is one of the few films in the Oscars’ history to achieve a full number of nominations in all acting categories, winning the Best Actress category.
The script, which Russell rewrote several times over the past years, has a rhythm and gives the actors a lot of space to play. For us, Silver Linings Playbook is his best work so far. Somehow, he gets everything that may seem like mistakes in his dramas to be the advantages in this comedy. That harsh portrait of the “typical American family,” the absurd silences and the irony of the “alpha male” who finds it difficult to express his feelings, reflected with the character played by a beautiful Robert De Niro.
One of the film’s significant assets is how it laughs at this “American dream” of the perfect family, with well-off lives, successful jobs, and precious children. One of my favorite scenes is when Ronnie (John Ortiz), Pat’s friend, invites him to dinner at his house with his wife to introduce him to Tiffany. At that moment, the couple began to show their “wonderful” home, with an iPod player in the bathroom included. It is fantastic how the script plays a parody, caricatures the characters creating a situation that could be a sketch of a comedy show.
Actors and characters
It seems clear that Russell’s most remarkable talent is in getting the best out of his cast, and so it is not surprising that he always works with well-known and talented actors. Starting with Bradley Cooper, he gives us one of his career’s best performances and ending with the secondary ones: Robert De Niro as that wonderful father of Pat, and a sensational Jackie Weaver, possibly the big surprise when it comes to nominations, with that cute mother figure.
However, Jennifer Lawrence turns out to be the best of the movie. She is a time bomb about to explode; all of the movie’s most astonishing scenes include her. She brings that madness that only she knows how to give, and at those moments, she can live up to a legend like Robert De Niro. That is why the Oscar committee chose to reward her with the Best Actress of the year award.
Music and cinematography
The Director David O’Russell has a particular camera work style with theatrical aspects. He tries to create a connection between characters and the audience by using plenty of follow-shoots. He intends to create an intimacy that directs our focus to the characters’ tragicomic aspects, making us feel we are spying on them. As these are happening in someone’s life, the cinematography tries to make us think that we are continually chasing the characters.
The soundtrack by Danny Elfman is nothing special. It has many piano and guitar songs, characteristic of the typical romantic-comedy movies. It also has some instrumental 60’s style pop sounds such as “Silver Lining Titles” at the beginning, which gives the film a bit of rhythm and energy. In most romantic comedies, the soundtrack always goes around, not getting in the movie’s way, providing space for the rest.
All in all, the film is very entertaining, the cast manages to hook you, and you need to see the resolution of the story, predictable but no less successful. Above all, we should highlight the chemistry between Cooper and Lawrence, taking the movie to a higher level. Silver Linings Playbook has been nominated for 8 Oscars; its success is nothing strange; it is fun and transmits good humor, caresses us on the back, and tells us that everything will be fine. It is the perfect movie to watch when you are feeling down!