As a movie goer it’s never good to hear “Oscar buzz” in regards to a film you’re about to see. Those two words ultimately build an instantaneous expectation. Despite the fact that in recent years Oscar contenders have had as many naysayers as pundits backing them up, the expectations still sit with an audience as they buy their movie tickets and proceed into the theater. More often than not these days, audiences go to a film with too much previous knowledge of what they’re about to see. There are teasers for teaser trailers, early reviews (guilty), script leaks and clips galore. It’s difficult to go to a film truly unspoiled. However, I urge individuals to attempt to not seek out spoilers for this film because it’s best seen with zero expectations and understanding. Silver Linings Playbook is so successful of a film because it manages to surprise you despite playing to some obvious film tropes.
The narrative focuses on Pat who’s just recently been released from a mental institution. His number one goal: get his ex-wife back. He’s back and living with his parents and is desperately trying to shift through the debris that his life has been left in. While on his journey to re-establish himself he meets Tiffany, a young woman with troubles of their own, and together they unknowingly begin to pick up the mess.
There are two popular routes that films seem to take when discussing mental illnesses. They’ll either take the path of the dramatics or convey the particular illness as so debilitating that they can barely function in everyday life. Or, they will make it the butt of the joke.
I don’t know which version is more offensive.
What’s great about this film is that it takes the third route, the one less traveled. Writer and director David O. Russell has written a script that is funny without being patronizing, lively, but never quite loses the gravity of the situation. The lines are elevated by the well-timed and off-the-cuff delivery by the two leads Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper.
All of the performances are great, with Robert DeNiro seemingly back on his game after years of throw away film roles. DeNiro cares again and seeing him care again and infuse the familiar electric quality of his acting is a treat to see. People who know Bradley Cooper from The Hangover fame will be surprised to see him take on such a serious role but should be impressed by the end. Cooper is not only dryly hilarious but is also hugely sympathetic. He and Lawrence share tangible chemistry, despite the age gap, and this is the most fun Lawrence has gotten to have in a role so far. Although her character is still morose and moody, she shines when she’s allowed to show off her comedic ability.
Directly following the film I believed that my issue with the movie was the way that it seemed to switch in tone around the half way mark. For the majority of the movie that script and tone was darkly comedic and towards the end was this switch where all of a sudden it became a romantic comedy. However, looking back, it seems like it may have been a fantastic directorial choice by O’Russell. At the beginning of the film, Pat is low and devoid of affection and is trying his best to better himself. His outlook on life is bleak; he’s the narrative we’re following and what he sees is what the audience sees. The audience is seeing the dullness that Pat is experiencing. However, as Pat begins to improve, the audience takes notice by the lightening of the tone, the brighter lighting of the scenes, the fact that it seems as if the color has begun to pop. If purposeful, I applaud the technique, if not, hopefully no one will notice.
Hitting theaters officially November 21st, this film is a worthwhile theater visit. It has one of the best climatic scenes this year that is so joyous you’d think it was another film altogether. The acting is great, the direction is great, and while the writing has some pacing flaws, it isn’t enough to detract from the rest of the film. I wouldn’t say that this is the best film of the year, I’d put at least another five ahead of it. Yet it is one of the sweetest and one of the most surprising. See it and decide for yourself.