Saturday, November 24, 2012

Cinema Siren knows mental illness. Who doesn’t? Like me, most of you probably have friends or family who struggle with the challenges of bipolar disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder on a daily basis.

What makes Silver Linings Playbook so endearing and what will make it so enduring as a new fan favorite is the straightforward, unflinching way it portrays those disorders while maintaining a surprising sense of charm and a great comedic heart. This is a movie worth any movie lover’s time and money, and will resonate with anyone who has personal experience interacting with those who live with these diseases.

The story, directed and adapted by David O. Russell (The Fighter, Three Kings), follows prodigal son Pat (Bradley Cooper), who lands back home after eight months in a mental institution on a plea bargain for a disastrous reaction to being cuckolded.

His mother (Jacki Weaver) and father (a restrained but spot on Robert De Niro) try to support him as he tries to rebuild his life, sans prescribed medication. He just wants to reunite with his wife and stay positive. When he is set up with damaged widow Tiffany (the always exceptional Jennifer Lawrence of Hunger Games), Pat and Tiffany strike up an unlikely friendship.

Their match of blunt wit, snark and brutal honesty spins the movie into verbal overdrive. The audience finds itself wincing at the characters’ social awkwardness, but laughing with them as well, as they themselves joke about and attempt to navigate their various situations. They call each other on their nonsense in a sharp yet fearless way that creates intense character loyalty in the viewer.

The cast is up to the emotional tasks their characters ask of them. Cooper’s frenetic and wacked-out rants are wholly believable. He flips from joy to anger on a dime. De Niro has a subtle series of OCD quirks that together build the father’s character into a lovable but difficult man to live with and understand. Tiffany has an off-kilter and self-destructive reaction to loss that seems a genuine possibility. It builds understanding and compassion in an audience that can’t help but root for both her and her relationship with Pat, whatever it becomes.

Lawrence once again plays a guy’s gal, but also a gal every girl needs as a friend. She spits and curses, aggresses herself, and speaks blunt truths, whatever the result. She may be damaged, but she still loves life passionately. What a character! Already the young talent Lawrence is building quite a resume of great female roles.

All these acting choices by the cast, as well as the overall scripting, supply the most honest yet funny portrayal onscreen of how bipolar and obsessive compulsive disorders affect a family that I can ever remember seeing. All this while incorporating romantic feel-good elements that make the movie a great choice for holiday viewing, especially as we all spend so much more time with our variously challenged friends and family!

There’s already much Oscar talk connected to Silver Linings Playbook, and it will likely be up for multiple nominations. The problem is the adapted screenplay, while wonderful, will be competing against Tony Kushner’s even more spectacular Lincoln. Also, the cast works so well together and plays so well off each other as an ensemble, it is hard to imagine how the Academy could single out one actor from the cast. No matter. At least we as an audience can see this movie and vote for great ensemble work and scripting with our moviegoing dollars.

You will walk out of this film feeling good and real at the same time. I suggest seeing Silver Linings Playbook this holiday season. I hear every time a movie lover supports a sophisticated well-written comedy, an angel gets his wings.