When we first meet Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) in the new movie Silver Linings Playbook, he’s fresh out of a mental institution, where he was being treated for bipolar disorder and anger management issues (he beat up the guy who was sleeping with his wife).
Those issues are still unresolved, as we see when, frustrated about the ending of Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, he throws the book out the window and vents to his parents (Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro) in the middle of the night.
If Pat doesn’t like that ending — or any ending that disappoints — he probably shouldn’t see this movie.
Don’t worry, no spoilers here. But I don’t think I could ruin the plot of Silver Linings Playbook even if I tried. Which is why it’s good that the film has much more going for it than a story.
For example, it’s got Bradley Cooper, who mixes the kind of confidence he typically displays in movies like The Hangover and Limitless with some of the sensitivity he displayed all the way back on the TV show Alias.
Pat’s an emotional wreck and a loose cannon, but he’s also a decent guy who just can’t always control his impulses. Cooper makes you love Pat and root for him, whether he’s running around town wearing a trash bag, or just giving that look that shows he’s utterly uncomfortable and — with defense mechanisms working at full blast — trying to work his way out into something more familiar. It’s a terrific performance.
He’s matched nicely by Jennifer Lawrence, who plays Tiffany, the neighborhood girl who’s dealing with problems of her own. Sure, she often looks too young to be Pat’s contemporary (15 years separate the two actors), but Lawrence digs deep, avoiding the caricature of the “crazy girl next door,” and making Tiffany a force of her own.
Director David O. Russell, who nailed the family dynamic that was at the heart of The Fighter, does the same here. He delicately walks the tightrope between comedy and drama, quirky and heartfelt, making Silver Linings Playbook another good look at a family on the brink of self-destruction that somehow manages to keep it all together. And he’s coached De Niro to the best performance he’s given in years. Kudos for that.
And then … It just falls apart.
Much of the second half of the movie deals with how Tiffany convinces Pat to join her in a local dance competition. These two learn to dance (sort of), they get closer, and you can pretty much guess what happens next.
Suffice it to say, the end of the film feels like a giant cop-out as Silver Linings Playbook suddenly becomes a big-screen version of Dancing with the Stars, mixed with some silly comedy involving a Philadelphia Eagles game, and we see once again the predictable plot resolution of love triumphing over mental illness. Ho hum.
No matter what the marketing campaign may lead you to believe, Silver Linings Playbook is not some quirky romantic comedy. But the last 20 minutes of the film sure do live up to that promise.
It’s all the stuff that happens before “what happens next” — including Chris Tucker’s surprisingly good turn as Pat’s buddy from the psych ward — that makes Silver Linings Playbook worth seeing. This isn’t a crazy-good movie, but despite its issues, it’s a mostly enjoyable one.
I’m giving Silver Linings Playbook a B.