A real heart-warming but predictable story
Director David O Russell certainly revels in combining confrontation and comedy, all in the midst of an endearing and heart felt romantic story. Coming off the success of The Fighter, which earned him a Best Director nomination at the Oscars, Silver Linings Playbook sees Russell carrying on his preferred film telling blue print of heightened drama and personal achievement.
Bipolar sufferer Pat (played by Bradley Cooper) is released from a psychiatric hospital eight months after assaulting his wife’s secret lover. Under the watchful eye of his parents and held back by a restraining order, he tries to save his marriage with the help of his new friend (with a capital F he insists) Tiffany, (played by Jennifer Lawrence) suffering her own mental instability herself.
Impressively, you could almost suggest this as a companion piece to The Fighter. Domestic altercations, older and wiser heads dictating to the weaker members of the household how to live their life and not letting that affect going after a personal triumph is all plain to see, and the film definitely doesn’t shy away from that, much to Russell’s craft. Whilst The Fighter had its story in boxing and this primarily in dancing going into its second act, it’s no surprise that Russell uses these self driven physical actions almost in unison to drive his direction, and makes his camera work show the physical performances as eloquent and graceful as they can be.
Predictability is an unfortunate downfall however, in that you can easily see how the plot threads will be tied up at the end from a mile away. In addition, some of the plot devices do become over tiresome when it tries to carry the story along. Especially a whole tug of war group discussion which smacks of absurdity going towards the end almost sets up the last twenty minutes of the film, instead of just letting the narrative go along nicely. It’s as though everyone has to stop for a second to explain how the ending is going to pan out, after already knowing the conclusion from the first hour an a half of the piece.
In saying that, despite narrative moments that don’t fully work, Bradley Cooper never lets up his tone and personality, being the troubled soul who never goes into the realms of over-the-top craziness throughout. Cooper greatly plays his character going from patience to anger in the drop of a hat, battling with himself to not ask his new friend how her husband ‘Tommy’ died – to ultimately his first question to her being… “How did Tommy die?”. Whether he’s supporting his favourite football team, or referencing to his use of attire for his exercises, he’s able to justify his character as the troubled soul and essential good guy at heart. But the real star is that of Jennifer Lawrence – her character of Tiffany almost mirrors Cooper’s in that she deals with her own troubles behind closed doors, never showing her traumas to the people around her, even though it may have ultimately changed her approach to them. It still doesn’t let that bring her life down. Lawrence has this fantastic persona of playing characters with so much openness, as though she says what everyone doesn’t want to say, which pays off every time.
A mention has to go to Robert De Niro, playing Pat’s father and coming to terms with the fact he may not have always been there for his son when he needed him, actually being great for the first time in some while compared to his recent performances in not-too-great films. Not to mention a great selection of songs drifting through the soundtrack in glimpses, especially since any film that dares to feature the classical tones of Stevie Wonder’s ‘My Cherie Amour‘ to full effect is always a thumbs up.
It’s plot devices don’t do justice for what is essentially a fateful romantic story. Absence of some off-screen characters do frustrate after a while as you plead for our characters to engage with them on-screen. But with fine performances all round, and a true love tale that deals with grounded issues of loss, illness and importance of family, it’ll leave you hugely satisfied at having witnessed a real heart warming story.