Sometimes life throws you curveballs so large, all you can do to keep from falling apart is to look for the silver linings. This is the life philosophy of “Silver Linings Playbook” star Pat Solatano, a former history teacher diagnosed with bipolar disorder who has recently lost his job, house and wife. And to top it all off, he has to move in with his parents after his brief stint in a state institution.
Solatano’s parents (Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver) just want him to fit in with the family — by supporting the family’s favorite football team, the Philadelphia Eagles — and Pat (Bradley Cooper) is keen on looking on the bright side and wants to get his life back on track. He begins with running every day and reading the books on his ex-wife’s syllabus for her English class in an attempt to win her back.
But things get complicated when you take more meds than you can keep track of. In one memorable scene, Solatano reads Ernest Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms” in one night and wakes his parents up in the middle of the night to consult them. “The world’s hard enough as it is!” he cries in defiant opposition to Hemingway’s dismal choice in ending. To add to his list of worries is a young widow — a friend of his ex-wife — named Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) who is as unpredictable as she is troubled. (“You can fuck me if you turn the lights off,” she confidently whispers in his ear the night the two are introduced.) Fortunately, the two are able to bond over their unconventional behavior and unhealthy ties to the past as Pat teaches Tiffany his “silver linings” life philosophy.
The psycho-comedy takes on the traditional romantic comedy mold, but Jennifer Lawrence’s portrayal of the smoldering Tiffany switches things up. The 22-year-old Lawrence, best known for her roles in “The Hunger Games” and the Oscar-nominated “Winter’s Bone,” brings a maturity and darkness to her character that is unexpected for an actress of her age. Her allure is quiet, disturbing and dangerous as her manic mood swings translate violently across the screen.
Though Lawrence commands a strong presence in “Silver Linings Playbook,” Bradley Cooper holds his own as the troubled Pat Solatano. In a scarily convincing scene set to Led Zeppelin’s “What Is and What Should Never Be,” Cooper has a mental break down as he searches for his wedding video, a recurring object throughout the film. The apparent horror visible on Cooper’s wild face sets this role apart from other surface-level roles Cooper has taken on in the past few years (think “The Hangover,” “Valentine’s Day” and “He’s Just Not That into You”).
Robert DeNiro steals the show, though. As Pat Sr., DeNiro brings a sense of childish charm and wit to his character. His obsession with the Philadelphia Eagles and his guilt for his parenting skills are convincing and heart-breaking all at once. DeNiro’s portrayal of the sports-obsessed father is natural and compelling. It’s difficult to not want to give DeNiro, clad in Philadelphia Eagles green throughout the film, a great big hug.
The plot of “Silver Linings Playbook” is not original in any sense — the storyline is predictable, if not downright sappy at times — but the poignant acting and sharp humor make up for it. Like Pat Solatano, who has no qualms searching for the “silver linings” in his life, viewers will have no problem finding the silver lining director David O. Russell places on the ending.
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