If I had to pick one word to describe Silver Linings Playbook it would be KIND. Modern movie audiences have become accustomed to movie characters treating each other poorly. Granted without conflict there is no plot, but when a film comes along featuring people who are actively striving to overcome their own demons and behave considerately towards their fellow human beings, we should take notice.
Silver Linings Playbook is the story of Pat (Bradley Cooper), who has just been released from a mental institution after he beat his wife’s lover to a pulp, and a young widow named Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence). Much has been made of Lawrence’s portrayal of Tiffany and her subsequent Oscar win (and her fumble on the way up the podium). Frankly there is not much else I can add. Suffice to say this: she is very good, and her real life charm conveys itself onscreen. Bradley Cooper holds his own against her, conveying both his character’s unbalanced ferocity and his genuine desire for forgiveness.
Director David O. Russell takes a dancer’s approach to the story. Characters move on- and off-screen with fluid motions. This is appropriate, given that Pat’s and Tiffany’s relationships centers on a dance competition: He will dance with her in exchange for her services as a liaison between Pat and his estranged wife, and if you can’t see where this plotline is going then you have never seen a romantic comedy. The delight in Silver Linings Playbook lies in watching these two injured souls find hope in one another. The stakes are higher than your average romance. They are not playing just to get one another in bed. Their relationship rests on its potential to bring them both out of the dark places in which they are currently trapped.
While watching the movie, I was reminded of Moonstruck (1987). In that film, Cher and Nicholas Cage fall in love in the middle of family turmoil. Their relatives weren’t simply cardboard cutouts placed in the movie to catalyze the plot or let the audience in on the back stories of our leads. Instead they are presented as fully fleshed out characters with their own problems.
Silver Linings Playbook also places Pat and Tiffany in a familial social circle, and with actors like Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver you know the family members are going to be an important part of the plot. One of my favorite moments in the movie is when Pat’s brother Jake (Shea Whigham) finds himself reeling off a list of his accomplishments as opposed to Pat’s difficulties. The sweat on his brow makes it clear that he has caught himself in a social blunder. Haven’t we all had that moment when we say something wrong and then make it much, much worse by continuing to speak? Pat’s response is perfect in its brevity.
Movies like Moonstruck and Silver Linings Playbook remind us that when you fall in love with someone, you don’t just take them on; you take on everyone close to them. Fortunately in the case of Silver Linings Playbook the result is an end sequence which brims over with love and acceptance. By the final shot, after you have traveled with Pat, Tiffany and their families through the woods on their way to a happy ending, you are genuinely delighted for them. They have each suffered in isolation, and in the end they find the greatest happiness in the people they love. Significantly the film doesn’t promise that their problems are over, but it does offer hope for their future. What better ending can anyone ask for?
Did you see Silver Linings Playbook? What did you think? I would love to hear from you!
(I own nothing related to Silver Linings Playbook or Moonstruck.)
Next up: Texas Chainsaw