Silver Linings Playbook (Almost) Avoids the Romantic Comedy Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook Theatrical Poster

Silver Linings Playbook Theatrical Poster

TitleSilver Linings Playbook
Genre(s)Drama, Comedy, Romance
Director(s)David O. Russell
Release Year2012
IMDB: 8.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes91%

‘Almost’ is the key word here. While watching Silver Linings Playbook, I felt like I was watching one of the best romantic comedies I had ever seen. Everything about it felt sincere, and each moment was ready to assault my emotions both brutally and pleasantly. Every performance was filled with the right amount of energy and every line was delivered as authentically as possible. Unfortunately, where this movie fell short was its entire third act, which had about as many cliches as possible thrown in there. There’s some moments that really work, but generally, I was cringing once the final act was set up. Besides that though, David O. Russell has made another really great film which tugs hard at your emotions (like he’s bound to do in all his films) and displays just how great of a filmmaker he is when it comes to displaying family dynamics and building a relationship between the unlikeliest of people.

The big pull factor of this film is going to be Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, who both lead Silver Linings Playbook and give some of their best performances to date. Cooper plays Pat, who is coming home after being checked into a mental hospital after brutally assaulting a man he catches with his wife in the shower. It’s then revealed that he had an undiagnosed bipolar disorder. So naturally, Cooper is forced into giving a somewhat off-kilter performance, one that ends up feeling entirely realistic and propels Cooper into more than just a pretty face. This is his finest performance yet, but he is also acting alongside a slew of other stellar performances. Lawrence plays Tiffany who is afflicted with severe depression and sex addiction after the death of her husband. Naturally, these two characters have some witty and complex conversations as they try to help each other out, each for their own personal advantages. I also can’t avoid mentioning Robert De Niro who is great as the father who just wants to mend his relationship with his son, while dealing with his gambling addiction and OCD nature.

Oh, and Chris Tucker is in this movie. And not annoying.

Oh, and Chris Tucker is in this movie. And not annoying.

Because of these characters and their eccentricities, it is pretty hard not to have some memorable interactions between each character. The most memorable scene is by far the one that’s in the trailers as Pat complains about Ernest Hemingway and the lack of a happy ending in his books, and ultimately, society. The unfortunate thing about this is that when the movie reaches its conclusion, it has forced in the happy ending that Pat wanted forced upon the reader, even if it doesn’t feel completely earned, or even entirely natural. In a scene that feels very contrived between Tiffany, Pat, his family, and his Dad’s best friend, everything begins to coalesce into one generic ending loaded with every move from the romantic comedy handbook. It’s interesting to have tried to let Pat be the dictator of how his story is shown, but that doesn’t equate to a good film. The most infuriating part of Silver Linings Playbook though, is when Tiffany shows an extensive bit of football knowledge (a subject she states over and over that she hates), and explains it in one simple line of dialogue: “I did my research.” That is not good screenwriting, I’m sorry, that’s what most would call cutting corners. Especially since it leads to the eventual endgame of the film.

Poor third act aside, the movie is extremely well-written up until that point, with dialogue and interactions feeling extremely authentic. Pat’s father’s relationship with his two sons feels authentic and you really appreciate what he’s trying to do by bringing his son into his gambling. One of the problems that I think the film addresses really well in a subtle fashion is how it seems to be everyone around Pat who brings him into any of his manic attacks, something that Pat himself doesn’t seem to ever acknowledge because he’s too blinded by the attack itself to realize why it happened. These dynamics between characters are just so great and have a very sincere touch to them. And the movie is even technically proficient, despite how little technicality it requires. The cinematography is really well done, often using different filming techniques to replicate the sporadic nature of bipolar disorder. Then there’s a lot of other elements used to show bipolar disorder throughout the film, almost all of which worked for me, including the climax in the final act.

A still from one of the more uncomfortable dinner scenes shown this year.

A still from one of the more uncomfortable dinner scenes shown this year.

I really do want to reiterate that Silver Linings Playbook is a great film. My gripe is that it could have been one of my favorite films if it had not gone the way it did and concluded in such a contrived fashion. It’s not a very different overall film from Russell’s previous work, but it’s good enough to be remembered for a while. Unfortunately, it’s not the perfect film it almost could have been, falling into the same pitfalls of other movies of the same genre. I can’t remember a romantic comedy of recent that managed to make me care for almost all of its characters as much as this one did, and that’s an accomplishment in and of itself. However, that care gets pretty diminished as the film reaches its close, but I never felt completely out of the movie despite its inherent failures.

Overall: Recommended

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