Rom-com of 'warped beauty'
Silver Linings Playbook
M, 2hr 15min
Reviewed by Jonathon Howe.
Silver Linings Playbook is, for lack of a better term, a romantic comedy, but it is by no means run of the mill.
It is an unsettling merger of comedy and drama, tempered with fine performances from a stellar cast and filled with tension, heartbreak, hilarity and violence.
If you were to judge it from the trailer alone, then you could be forgiven for thinking it generic, but in the hands of director and writer David O Russell (The Fighter, I Heart Huckabees), it becomes a thing of warped beauty.
Set in Philadelphia Eagles country, the film starts out with former teacher Pat Jr (Bradley Cooper) being released from a psychiatric facility by his loving but fragile mother, Dolores (Jacki Weaver of Animal Kingdom).
Pat, who is bipolar, was confined to the unit for beating a man he caught sleeping with his wife, Nikki (Brea Bee).
But Pat is far from a healed man. He has become obsessed with winning back his estranged wife, who has a restraining order on him, and has launched into a vigorous exercise and reading regime.
Living at home with his nervous mother and bookmaker father, Pat Sr (Robert De Niro), an obsessive-compulsive Eagles fan banned from attending games because of fighting, is not the most stable environment.
Pat Jr is a bundle of nervous energy who veers to the cusp of meltdown at any moment. The scene where he turns the house upside down trying to find his wedding video is unnerving, as is his explosion in his psychiatrist's office.
When Pat Jr meets widowed sex addict Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence), the chemistry between them is palpable. They are broken souls both embarking on personal journeys of discovery. After some awkward encounters, they forge a deal that culminates in their participation in a dance contest.
With his manic eyes and unfiltered dialogue, Cooper shows he is more than just the pretty boy from The Hangover films. Lawrence (Winter's Bone, The Hunger Games), who looks like a cross between Renee Zellweger and Juliette Lewis, owns every scene she's in. Her small, dark eyes convey more than a thousand words, displaying flashes of curiosity, hurt and bemusement in one heartbeat.
De Niro gives his best performance in recent history - his words of advice to Pat Jr near the end of the third act are worth the price of admission alone.
Russell's style is prevalent throughout. His scenes are chaotic and unscripted, often taking his actors to uncomfortable places.
The interplay between characters, particularly noticeable in the parley scene, evoke Robert Altman's overlapping dialogue style, but in manic fashion.
Silver Linings Playbook is one of the those rare beasts that displays the rigours of emotional fragility and fractured relationships, while also showing the redemptive qualities of love.