This Valentine's day, me and hubs went out to catch the screening of Silver Linings Playbook, a romantic comedy directed by David O. Russel. Any movie that generates Oscar buzz generally piques our interest and I was surprised to learn that Silver Linings Playbook, a movie belonging to the genre of romantic comedies, scored a nomination in each of the so-called "Big Five" Academy Award categories. If you look back in history, rarely has a popcorn-munching, box-office courting romcom managed to grab major critical accolades as opposed to intense subject matter dealing with crime, politics, patriotism, psychology, war, history, biographical accounts or fantasy. I seated myself in the crowded theater not knowing what to expect and after the runtime of about 120 minutes, as the lights in the cinema went back on, I couldn't help but musing with a grin as to how perfect this movie was for the occasion!
After getting involved in a brutal assault with his wife's lover, Pat Solatano (who also suffers from bipolar disorder) is recovering at a mental health institution on a plea bargain under court orders. After 8 months, he is allowed to come home but is monitored constantly and has to attend court-mandated therapy with shrink Dr. Patel. Directing all the positive energy he gained at the institution, Pat is desperately looking for a silver lining to his story as he attempts to reconcile with his wife Nikki. This however is not encouraged by his parents or friends as he has a restraining order against him.
At a friend's home, Pat meets Tiffany Maxwell, a young widow who is also a recovering sex addict. She reveals that she has also been recently fired from her job. Tiffany seems to Pat to be as "messed up" as they come but she makes him realize that they are not all that different and that at least she is honest about who she is while he is delusional and a hippocrite. After the initial meeting, they keep running into each other and over several exchanges, Tiffany promises to pass a letter to Nikki in exchange for a favor. She wants Pat to participate with her in a dance competition. After much coercion and manipulation, Pat agrees. Pat's father, Pat Sr. is unhappy by Pat's routine absence from home to attend dance rehearsals with Tiffany. Pat Sr. is a bookmaker who supports the Philadelphia Eagles football team and along with his multiple idiosyncrasies, believes Pat's presence to be a good luck charm in winning. After gambling his entire savings on a game, Pat Sr. opens up to his son and apologizes for not being more supportive as a father during his childhood. He requests Pat to attend the game which Pat agrees at the cost of skipping rehearsal with Tiffany. At the game, Pat gets into a scuffle with the rival team supporters while defending his brother and therapist. An enraged Tiffany barges into the Solatano household, berates Pat and enlightens Pat Sr. that during every time the Eagles have won, Pat was with her. Astounded by this information, Pat's father makes a bizarre parlay with his gambling partner on the last game of the season and on a dancing score average of 5 for Pat and Tiffany at the upcoming competition much to the horror of his family members.
A week before the competition, Tiffany hands overs a typed letter to Pat from Nikki where she hints vaguely at the possibility of a reconciliation. Pat recognizes that the letter has been written by Tiffany herself. On the day of the dance competition, Tiffany sees Nikki and immediately panics. Pat drags her to the dance floor just as the Eagles beat the Dallas Cowboys and they complete their dance routine. They receive a 5 point average from the judges and a jubilant Pat rushes over to Nikki as Tiffany watches in despair. The movie ends with Pat pursuing Tiffany and telling her that he loved her right from the moment they met and they are shown in the company of their family and friends as a couple after that.
Coming to the performances, Jennifer Lawrence as the enigmatic and troubled Tiffany is riveting. She steals the show right from the first frame. Her anguish is reflected in her eyes, voice and body language and she delivers a knockout performance. It is hard to believe that she was only 21 when the movie was filmed. I cannot imagine any other actress playing such an intense role so naturally and convincingly (with the exception of Natalie Portman maybe). Bradley Cooper as Pat Jr. is a treat to watch. He assays his role of a man suffering from a stigmatized mental illness with conviction and sensitivity. From being unable to relate completely with his family & friends, being judged by strangers and the frustration of being unable to control his feelings - he effectively brings out a range of complex emotions. I have to admit that I wasn't so sure of his acting capabilities before I watched this movie but he has proved me wrong. The ensemble cast of Julia Stiles, Chris Tucker, Anupam Kher and Jacki Weaver are wonderful but the stand out by far is Robert Deniro as Pat Sr. He is simply outstanding. The emotional scene between father and son is so touching that it brought tears to my eyes. This is one of those movies that you don't forget for a long time after watching it. The USP of the movie are its performances and the offbeat storyline. This is a movie which although tackles a serious subject, manages to inject just the right amount of humor. The movie is also strangely bipolar swinging wildly between funny and quirky to dark and psychological. I am rooting for this movie at the Oscars and if not for all the categories, I hope that it wins in the category of Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence) and Best Supporting Actor (Robert DeNiro).
Every cloud does have a silver lining!
I rate this movie a 4.5 out of 5 stars