The Silver Linings Playbook Review

by Mark R. Leeper (mleeper AT optonline DOT net)
February 18th, 2013

    (a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

    CAPSULE: In this comedy/drama Pat, a bipolar man with violent mood swings, is released from a mental
    hospital and tries to put his life back together.
    Moving in with his parents may be a mistake, with a
    father who has worse mind problems than he has. He
    meets an unstable woman, Tiffany, who may be able to help him get back together with his wife. There is
    some charm to the story, but the final act is very neat, predictable, contrived, and not up to originality of the first two. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

Pat Solitano (played by Bradley Cooper) has bi-polar disorder and has violent episodes when he is angry. He has lost his job as a teacher and has been institutionalized for the previous eight months as part of a plea bargain. This was following a rage-attack against his wife Nikki whom he found in the shower having sex with another man (while playing the same song that was played at their wedding). As the film opens Pat is being released and is looking forward to getting back together with Nikki in spite of the restraining order against him. He has to move back in with his parents Pat Sr. and Dolores (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver). It is clear that much of Pat's mental problems he gets from his father who has rages just as violent and who entertains an unhealthy obsession with the Philadelphia Eagles. Pat Sr., also unemployed, wants to pull together enough money buy a restaurant by becoming a bookmaker and mostly betting on the Eagles. In Pat Jr.'s efforts to win back Nikki he might be able to get some help from Tiffany-- also mentally unstable--but who might be able to help him get together with his wife.

Pat thinks that he has his mental problems under control. Appreciating silver linings to problems play a major part of his personal self-treatment. But he still falls into rages and he acts irrationally at times. He has taken to running as a way to keep his mind under control and for some reason not explained chooses to do wearing like a poncho a garbage bag with holes for his head and arms. And when he runs Tiffany seems to have an almost supernatural ability to run into him.

Writer/director David O. Russell (who formerly helmed THE FIGHTER in 2010) gives us another story of a violent person putting his life back together after he has mismanaged it. While the film may technically be a romantic comedy, it is one with a lot of pain that overshadows the happy and the unhappy moments. And even the happy moments at the end cannot be fully enjoyed because the plot at that point is so heavily contrived.

The film is unpredictable in the first half, but as the third act arrives everything starts falling all too neatly into place. The final act seems to gloss over Pat's mental problems by simply not showing any more violent episodes. Will love conquer all? Well, it does not seem to have for Pat's mother Dolores. Played by Australian actress Jacki Weaver, we can see in her eyes that she is paying a life-long price for her love of the explosive Pat, Sr. from whom Pat, Jr. has inherited more than just a name. We are given no reason to believe that when times get a little harder that Pat's personality problems may not rear their heads again. One rather suspects that the aftermath of this film is not going to be a happily ever after. I rate SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.

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Mark R. Leeper
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Copyright 2013 Mark R. Leeper

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