Much can be said for a real connection, the chemistry between two costars that creates a sort of synergy so powerful, it reaches out from the screen.
In romantic movies, it’s a requirement, and the bigger the better. Without that back and forth or cohesion — that spark between the male and female leads — rom-coms fail to launch and get stuck on the runaway spinning their tires in awkward fashion.
So what can be said for costars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence playing broken and dysfunctional characters so tragic, human, and most importantly, real? When they share the screen, they complement each other so well that when their characters are separated, there’s a void, a negative space filled with longing and loneliness.
To call Silver Linings Playbook a comedy feels a bit like misdirection — it’s actually a movie with characters and situations so real, humor comes naturally. And where there are humans and laughter, there is tragedy, failure, heartbreak, and the sorting out of the mess that we call relationships.
Pat (Cooper) gets discharged from a mental ward and placed in his parents care. A felon with an assault and battery charge against him, Pat must adhere to stringent rules that require him to stay away from his wife, take medication, and meet with a therapist in order to control his bipolar disorder and mood swings. Pat’s diagnosis sets him on a path of understanding — knowing what causes him to act the way he does, Pat holds tightly onto the hope he will be reconciled with his wife if he cleans himself up, gets fit, and stays radically positive.
While the community keeps its distance, Tiffany (Lawrence), a widow with her own issues and bad reputation, dives in headfirst into Pat’s life becoming a conduit through which Pat hopes to communicate to his wife, despite a restraining order against him. Meanwhile, Pat’s father, Pat Sr. (Robert DeNiro), recently unemployed and working as a bookmaker, bets the Eagles games hoping to win enough money to start a restaurant.
Silver Linings Playbook is 2012’s As Good As It Gets, a realistic hyper-drama hidden in a comedy where characters bare their insides to devastating effect. The honesty is frank, the emotions palpable, and the tension thick.
Hilarious exchanges thankfully give audiences a break in between all that life being portrayed so poignantly by Cooper and Lawrence whose abrasive and honest characters put each other on blast.
As Pat finds his way back into society, he deals with the truth of himself, an explosive and destructive side he pushes away when he’s able. It’s when his attention is on others that he forgets the problem and focuses on solutions.
Many people don’t understand what it’s like to live with mental illness, and David O. Russell’s script lacks pretense and superficial stereotypes. Instead, it presents Pat’s struggle as a catalyst that moves the plot and provides the basis for Pat’s character development.
No one is asked to place any of the characters on a pedestal — but there is a hope for forgiveness and understanding.
While the movie’s end feels convoluted with a finish that feels too knitted together, there’s a lot going for the movie including DeNiro’s performance as a father coming to terms with regret and lost time. From a pessimistic point of view, perhaps the movie is a metaphor for life itself — a giant cloud of strife and suffering that everyone must contend with.
Silver Linings, deserved or not, when found, help us along the way.