Aug 5, 2013

[Movies] Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Silver Linings Playbook, at least initially, struck me as that typical Oscar-quality movie that most of us have never heard about and yet manages make waves come the awards season itself. You know these kinds of movies - that ones that are released in the last quarter of the year, don't exactly rake in the money during the initial theatrical release but just tickle the Oscar voters and thus make waves the next year. It happens every time year after year.

And this movie so fits that mold - and don't get me started on how it is also (1) adapted from a novel and (2) how it involves mental illness. I mean serious, how perfect is this?

But despite how it seems there's a "formula" behind such movies, this does not mean it isn't a good movie. In fact, it's a pretty darned good one and it does deserve a lot of the praise and accolades that it has received after its release and especially the awards that the movie has won as well. As far as following a formula goes, this movie made sure to follow the instructions pretty darn well.

Synopsis: Silver Linings Playbook is a 2012 romantic comedy drama (seriously, three genres) written and directed by David O. Russell and was based on the Matthew Quick novel of the same name. The movie received a number of nominations across the various awarding bodies and managed to win a few including a Best Actress award for Jennifer Lawrence.

Pat (Bradley Cooper) is released from a mental institution after a particularly violent incident some time back involving his wife and an affair that he had walked in on. He's now under the care of his parents, Delores (Jacki Weaver) and Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro) after months of treatment for bi-polar disorder. He comes home to learn that his father is unemployed and that this wife, Nikki (Brea Bee) has moved away and has filed a restraining order against him. But Pat is doing his best to stay positive and focus on putting his life back together.

He continues to see a court-mandated therapist, Dr. Patel (Anupam Kher), who tries his best to help Pay work through his issues. He remains particularly traumatized by the song My Cherie Amour by Stevie Wonder, given it was the song playing when he discovered his wife with another man. The main challenge is that Pat does not see the need for medication, which makes his struggle that much more difficult. He eventually has dinner with his best friend Ronnie (John Ortiz) and there meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), Ronnie's sister-in-law who is a widow and a sex addict. And somehow their dysfunctions become common ground for them to get to know one another better.

We're used to seeing Bradley Cooper as the generally confident yet slightly awkward leading man, so it was an interesting change of pace to see him try to portray someone with bi-polar disorder. It wasn't the greatest depiction of someone struggling with mental illness, but it was significant enough to make the necessary emotional impact. But what I liked even more was how his father, as played by Robert De Niro, nicely showed a lot of the same signs of instability and violence in his behavior that eventually led to Pat Jr.'s hospitalization. It's a somewhat subtle indication of how mental illness can run in the family and that it's not just magically found in one child or something.

Jennifer Lawrence was indeed quite brilliant in this movie, and I can certainly understand how she got the Oscar nomination in the first place. She's quite the strong, confident female character this time around and is able to go toe-to-toe with both Cooper and De Niro as needed. And while her character's neurosis is a bit more subtle than Cooper's, she does well in bringing it out.

For a movie about mental illness though, it was not as painful as many other such movies out there. Far too often filmmakers like to indulge and push the limits of what actors can do in order to may the portrayal somehow more realistic. Here Cooper's performance is just right - not too intense but not too overplayed. Thus many times one can't help but feel that there's nothing really wrong with him - at the end of the day he is a man who was significantly wronged by his wife and the experience left him particularly traumatized. After all, how would we react had we found our significant other in such a compromising position with your wedding song playing to boot!

Silver Linings Playbook manages to be a romantic comedy at its core despite the darker dramatic elements involved. It's not totally light and you still have to brace yourself a bit but on the whole it's a quirky, crazy movie that makes for a nice Saturday night experience. The movie rates 4 quirky football statistics arguments out of a possible 5.

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