For all its admittedly good performances and originally interesting premise, Silver Linings Playbook ultimately ends up just being your typical romantic comedy. That is a shame because the first half of this film promised something special. Despite that, there are enough silver linings in the film itself to make it an enjoyable time at the theater.
Silver Linings Playbook follows Pat (Bradley Cooper), a man trying to pick up his life after he was committed to an institution for a bi-polar outbreak he had when he caught onto his wife’s affair. In order to get back into his wife’s good graces, Pat decides that his best chance to do so is through a family friend’s recently widowed sister (Jennifer Lawrence). The film is directed by Academy Award nominated director David O. Russell (The Fighter). Russell is also the film’s sole screenwriter.
David O. Russell has had a history of getting great performances from his cast. Some may argue with the manner by which he gets those performances but you can’t argue with the fact that he knows how to get a good performance out of his actors. In his last film, Russell ended up getting too much of a good performance from Christian Bale and ended up having one performance overpower his entire film. That is not the problem this time around as he gets one of his best performances from an ensemble yet. Russell also brings some nice visual touches to a film genre (romantic comedy) that desperately needs some fresh air. This is really apparent in the last act’s stunning dance sequences. The problem with this film is that there is nothing about the material that is worth remembering. The story just dissolves into the usual romantic comedy tropes and some of the actions these characters take are just ridiculous under any circumstances (especially one act that Robert De Niro’s character does while another character, a trained psychiatrist, sits in the background and does nothing to stop him).
That being said the cast is charming enough to make you overlook many of the film’s flaws. Bradley Cooper is revelatory as the bi-polar riddled main character. Bi-polar disorder seems like such a tough condition to act out on the screen but Cooper makes it seem realistic and never hammy. Jennifer Lawrence is also quite good as the female lead. It’s not as complex or worthy as her performance in The Hunger Games, but she does a great job of handling both the comedic and dramatic moments her character goes through. Robert De Niro does his best work in years as the gambling addicted father to Bradley Cooper’s character. The writing for his character is awful (he just seems tacked on to the film at the last minute and goes through a ridiculous plot), but De Niro somehow makes you sympathize with the character. Chris Tucker and John Ortiz are good in short roles, and newcomer Brea Bree is fantastic in two short scenes.
A fantastic cast overshadows a troubled script and a boring plot in Silver Linings Playbook.