The Academy Award nominated feel-good romantic comedy Silver Linings Playbook has gotten some extremely high praise and a significant amount of buzz. Starring Jennifer Lawrence (Hunger Games) and Bradley Cooper (The Hangover) it has been nominated for a total of 8 Oscars. But is it worthy?
The film opens with Pat (Cooper) getting picked up by his mother from a court ordered 8-month stay in a mental institute. This opening sequence and the first half of the film are by far the strongest parts of the film, with Cooper in a state of spectacular dysfunction and near incomprehensibility on numerous occasions. Determined to win back his unfaithful wife, Pat begins a disciplined regimen of reading American classics and running.
An unexpected dinner invite sits Pat next to Tiffany (Lawrence), an equally dysfunctional, mentally unstable individual, whose husband has recently died. Sparks fly as they emote their simultaneous physical attraction, and intellectual disdain for each other, arguing about who is more mentally ill. It is this love/hate dynamic, which provides the most interesting tension in the film, with Cooper and Lawrence delivering undeniable on screen chemistry.
However, the movie falls apart as it moves away from complex character study of individuals with mental illness and develops an unlikely and clichéd plot about a wager on a football game, made by Pat’s OCD father (Robert De Niro), and a dance competition Pat and Tiffany have entered. What is more disturbing is that Cooper’s performance suggests such a radical transformation, under the guidance of some equally suspect therapy, as to imply that “love” cures mental illness.
What is love? A question too big to be discussed here, however, Silver Linings Playbook is an impassioned plea by Hollywood to return to the faith of the romantic comedy, the happy ending and the cult of a relationship that is the answer to everything… Silver Linings Playbook denies love rooted in commitment or honesty and continues the celebration of love bound up in passion and chemistry.
While the actors deliver up some big performances, in my opinion it was Robert De Niro who stands out. De Niro’s performance demonstrates a consistency and subtlety lacking in both Lawrence and Cooper’s. The two leads, though especially Cooper, present big performances of a subject unfamiliar and often scary for many of us. Without expertise, it can be difficult to determine the authenticity of these performances. However, it is my suggestion that the ability to play “big, loud and crazy” in such away as impresses lots of people is not necessarily the best test of acting ability, but rather great acting is in the subtlety of performance, something that the film lacks generally but is particularly deficient in Coopers role.
Overall, the film is fun and feel-good– starting out quite strongly but getting bogged down in clichéd plot devices. With strong but overrated performances, interesting and clever cinematography, it is the story, which over reaches itself, that fails to deliver a truly earned and satisfying journey. If it wins Best Picture the Academy should be ashamed.