On paper, Silver Linings Playbook, a romantic comedy starring actors Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, who became famous in blockbuster movies, should be nothing but another popcorn flick. It helps you relax and makes you laugh.
But when it comes to a movie with eight Oscar nominations, I expect a little more–whether that’s making you think or showing you life from a new perspective.
Silver Linings Playbook does both, with some excellent acting and a quirky presentation of the lives of two wounded, slightly daffy characters.
The acting is one big reason I loved this movie. Silver Linings Playbook is the first movie in 31 years, and the 14th movie ever, to receive Oscar nominations in all four acting categories. This almost says everything.
Having already demonstrated a maturity beyond her years, the movie allows Lawrence to let loose and have a little fun while still maintaining a dramatic integrity. As for Cooper, there’s a manic side to his portrayal of a character who strives to convince himself of his capacity for happiness but also has a dark side.
I once read that “quirkiness in American culture is often a way of pretending to be original while remaining happily and utterly conventional”. Although Silver Linings Playbook is definitely quirky, the rest of that equation doesn’t apply.
The movie makes a mockery of convention from beginning to end, making it a subtle and sophisticated story about mental illness.
If you have ever suffered from a mental illness, you will know that it’s not as glamorous as sometimes portrayed in serious works but actually terribly dull.
The first half of Silver Linings Playbook focuses on portraying the difficult struggle of trying to get one’s mind back together: the slow progress, the harsh setbacks, the sudden collapses. This is a courageous movie, because it avoids the cliches of glamorous madness, which are so easy that they could have offered a more pleasant but less thought-provoking viewing experience.
Thus, Silver Linings Playbook creates a genre with its own insane approach to insanity. In contrast to romantic comedies that rely on “zaniness” to make characters sympathetic, here, we are attracted to the characters because of their damaged natures and how their irrational antics are treated as “learning to be yourself”.
In the end, the redemption the characters achieve–this is, after all, a David O. Russell movie–is much more reserved and quiet than in a typical romantic comedy. The aura of forgiveness that permeates the ending is played out in a minor key.
The movie stays true to itself and the happy ending really is only a silver lining.