Silver Linings Playbook (M) 122 mins
A welcome change from the media's usual ineptitude at representing mental illness, in this excellent adaptation of the bestselling novel by Matthew Quick, the challenges of mental ill-health are portrayed accurately and with respect. Eschewing the overt "craziness" of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Quick's protagonists are as relatable as our own family member or colleague, and their experiences authentically relayed.
Add major league casting to the mix, and you have a powerful and affecting film. Bradley Cooper (sincere, charismatic and devastatingly credible) is Pat, recently released from eight months in the local psychiatric hospital into the supportive arms of his long-suffering mother (Jacki Weaver) and superstitious bookkeeping father (the best Robert DeNiro has been in more than a decade). Pat experiences bipolar disorder, and erratic behaviour saw him estranged from his wife prior to hospitalisation. Committed to proving he is "better" and getting her back, he enlists the help of headstrong Tiffany, herself battling demons following the death of her husband.
The core cast members have been nominated for four of the film's eight Oscars (Jennifer Lawrence, at only 22, is up for her second best actress gong after Winter's Bone. She won the Golden Globe, and when you see her owning a scene against a legend like DeNiro, you know why). Cooper, the hunk from dumb comedies like The Hangover, finally gets a meaty role with complexities he is more than capable of juggling.
Director David O Russell (up for best adapted screenplay and director) shoots this as he did The Fighter, with grainy photography of sun-spared Philadelphian streets. This is the real world, even if its characters sometimes seem higher-strung than most.
Silver Linings Playbook is a surprise gem which certainly manages to see the bright side of life.
- Sunday Star Times