Dance your pain out in ‘Silver Linings Playbook’

Carljoe Javier
Problems overwhelming? Here's a feel-good movie suggestion.

GREAT COUPLE FOR REEL. Bradley Cooper (Pat) and Jennifer Lawrence (Tiffany), stars of 'Silver Linings Playbook.' Photo from the 'Silver Linings Playbook' Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – What looked to be this year’s dark horse entry in the Best Picture Oscars race, “Silver Linings Playbook” is an immensely entertaining and enjoyable drama. It might take some flak for its portrayal of mental illness, but on the whole it treats its subject matter with just the right amount of care, respect, and humor to make a wholly charming flick. 

We are first introduced to Bradley Cooper’s Pat through a montage showing how he is trying to deal in a mental facility. It’s also there that we meet Chris Tucker’s Danny, who drops in and out of the movie to provide some comic relief. 

And boy do we need comic relief throughout, because of the dark and depressing places that the movie sometimes visits. 

Watch the trailer here:

The movie really starts cooking once Pat is back at home with his parents, Pat Sr and Dolores played by Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver. Both give Oscar-nominated turns. While there is speculation about the Weinstein push behind their nominations, once you are in the world of this movie. Watching the family dynamics at work, it becomes clear that these very powerful performances deserve all the attention they have gotten. 

Pat diagnoses his father as having his own set of neuroses. In fact, Pat goes around judging people, even as he speaks about his own improvements, his own attempts at getting better, his motto “excelsior,” and how all of that builds into his new worldview of seeing silver linings. This makes the character interesting, as he struggles to make sense of the world, forcing the world to fit within the parameters that he sets. 

Bradley Cooper does a great job of portraying Pat as a man who is trying to live in a world that is fundamentally different from the way he sees it. There are a number of scenes that are powerful in how they illustrate Pat’s vulnerability and difficulties. I can see how in another year Cooper might have won Best Actor. He easily makes Pat believable and real. Even more importantly, despite all of Pat’s problems and his mental illness, he comes off as likable and someone that we would care for. 

Playing opposite him, the antithesis of meet-cute, is Jennifer Lawrence’s Tiffany, who is a commanding presence from the first moment she appears. She is sulking and angry and there is something about her that would repel most men (or draw them in to take advantage of her). Pat sees being good to her as a way to show his ex-wife that he has gotten better. Tiffany also offers him the opportunity to give his ex a letter. 

Here’s an interview on the movie with actor Bradley Cooper:

It’s an unlikely pairing, with two people who are suffering from mental illness coming together to deal with their problems. But Lawrence and Cooper sell it, and David O. Russell’s script leads us to accept a lot of the developments in the film. In fact, even when things started to feel contrived, I found myself still going with the film and rooting for the characters. 

Pat and Tiffany spend a good part of the film working together on a dance routine, which serves as a big climactic piece. I’ll be honest with you, dear reader, I love them dance sequences, and this film’s big number is a fun and memorable one. 

More importantly, the dancing is what brings out the good in these two characters. Though it is premised on favors owed (Tiffany will deliver Pat’s letter if Pat will dance with her) we watch their relationship develop through the time they spend together. It’s rocky and problematic and we get hints of development only to be pulled back down. But that’s all a credit to the film’s ability to play with tension and string us along with the story. 

Make no mistakes though, this film is like an anti-romantic comedy. While on its surface it might be sellable as a cute romantic flick, it is far from that. It deals with characters who have problems and who are in certain scenes genuinely frightening. 

Here’s another interview with Jennifer Lawrance, who won the Oscar Best Actress for the movie:

It’s not about quirky people doing cute things. It attempts to provide us a picture of people who have real illnesses attempting to cope and be better. I could not help but empathize with that. And whether you suffer from a similar illness or not, I am pretty sure that you will also be able to relate to the difficulty and the struggle to just be the best version of yourself in a world that so often makes that difficult. 

The movie explores painful places, like Pat’s violent outbursts and his delusions that insist that he can win his wife back after everything that has happened. But these dark points and low lows only help to counterbalance the highs that this movie manages to hit. 

“Silver Linings Playbook” is an intelligent, well-acted film that goes outside of the traditional Hollywood modes for films. It gives us some familiar things, but for the most part it tells a new story in a novel way. Despite its subject matter, it is also funny and humorous. And most importantly, this movie has a lot of heart to it, and that shows through in pretty much every single moment of it. –

(‘Silver Linings Playbook’ is currently showing in Philippine cinemas.)

Carljoe Javier

Carljoe Javier doesn’t know why people think he’s a snarky film critic who spends his time dashing the hopes of filmgoers. He thinks he’s not all that bad, really. He teaches at the State U, writes books, and studies film, comics, and video games… Then again, those people could be right.

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