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Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

"Before viewing" talks don't have spoilers, but since there's no "After viewing" talk for this one, comments may have spoilers. More»» by Randy Heffner

Off-beat, witty, and creatively dysfunctional, Silver Linings Playbook explores the craziness that underlies our lives. Whether it’s obsessive attachments or odd superstitions or poor social skills or difficulty distinguishing art and reality — or many others — we humans seem to find endless ways of crazy-making. Entering fully into the film’s world, Silver Linings has a marvelous way of helping me laugh at myself — that is, if I’m willing to ‘fess up to some of my own dysfunction. Still, some elements of the film tend toward encouraging dysfunction, and that detracts from its overall excellence.

Pat Solitano has been, by court order, in a mental institution. His mom works to get him out, though his dad is not sure about he’s ready to be out. Pat is dead set to reconnect with his wife, though this would lead him toward violating the court’s restraing order. His dad wants some quality time with him, but Pat winds up spending time with a new friend, the imbalanced Tiffany, because she will help him get back with his wife. Where it all goes from there is crazy, just like Pat and Tiffany. Running time: 122 min.

A lot of us like to joke about being crazy, but really we think we’re normal — it’s everyone around us that’s crazy. I wonder if we really know the subtle ways in which we do mixed-up, dysfunctional things. Silver Linings Playbook trades much more in exaggeration than in sublty, yet if we go with it, the magnifying glass of exaggeration might be just the thing to help us see that we’re not as normal as we pretend. Where do our desires push us to ignore the “restraining orders” of our better judgment? What do we irrationally latch onto as the thing that will turn our lives around? When are we willing to lead another on, white lies and all, not wanting to expose our real intent? In all of this, where is real love and loyalty? We can take the film’s lightness and oddity as a fun romp, and it works well on that level, but even better, with a little effort, we can also bounce a bit of self-reflection off the film and find some way to be a little less crazy ourselves.

The filmcraft of Silver Linings embodies all this craziness quite well. One must start with the realization that the screenplay intends to exaggerate, and once that premise is granted, the various characters, their foibles, and the interactions among them are charming. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence excellently ground the film as the two main crazies. A student pursuing a project makes a great stand-in for our voyeurism as the audience-who-thinks-we're-normal. The film's pacing moves it along faster than its 2-hour length.

It is hard to articulate the one major weakness I find without spoilers. I'll just say that, in the end, the film holds too lightly the value of a certain type of relationship, instead going with the prevailing winds of transientness and pursuit of relational magnetism that I believe cause a strain of real craziness in our lives. If you're ready to consciously work past that, the film is worth the time and a good bit of fun.

Sexual themes and conversation are prevalent, with a slight bit of nudity. A central scene involves a fight in which it's clear what is happening, though there is no blood and gore. Another couple of fight scenes are less intense. Crazy rage turns destructive of property. Strong language throughout.

  • Director: David O. Russell
  • Screenplay: David O. Russell, based on novel by Matthew Quick
  • Leads: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver
  • Cinematography: Masanobu Takayanagi
  • Music: Danny Elfman

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