Film shows flair for capturing the dysfunctional

20:12, May 27 2013
silverlinings
WARPED BEAUTY: Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper star in intricate romantic comedy <I>Silver Linings Playbook.</I>

Directed by David O Russell
120 mins

Obsession is at the heart of most romantic comedies, but David O Russell's Silver Linings Playbook goes further than most.

Based on Matthew Quick's bestselling novel, the film delves into mental illness and therapy culture as much as it does the ordinary romantic comedy notions of "starting over". Then again, the "love interests" for most romantic comedies are somewhat delusional, when you stop and think about it.

The opening scenes introduce us to Pat (Bradley Cooper), who has just been released from an eight-month stint in a psychiatric ward.

He was institutionalised after a mental breakdown following an estrangement from his wife (he's bipolar).

Pat's convinced he can reconcile with his wife: this worries his father (Robert De Niro, very sympathetic) and mother (a likeable Jacki Weaver), particularly considering Pat is still prone to violent mood swings, some of them triggered by Stevie Wonder's My Cherie Amour (don't ask).

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The early scenes show off Russell's flair for capturing the dysfunctional. A lesser director would have turned on the mania, but Russell knows it's more disturbing when there's an air of normality to it.

Pat's scenes with his therapist (a very funny Anupam Kher) are comic but surprisingly charged. Even the introduction of the film's romantic interest, young widow Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) is initially untidy: it's clear she's more damaged than she lets on.

Lawrence and Cooper's chemistry is genuine, but it's also held in reserve.

We know something is going to happen, but there's a lot of mess to be navigated before they get there.

Lawrence is perfectly cast, with exactly the right mix of sexiness and aloofness, while Cooper's everyman charm balances out his character's less appealing aspects.

Unfortunately, Silver Linings Playbook goes out of its way to wrap things up tidily.

Two subplots come together in a way that stretches credulity. After all the good work in establishing the characters' very real difficulties, the film decides to make it far too easy for them.

Silver Linings Playbook is tougher and better acted than the majority of romantic comedies, but it's just as delusional.

Hugely enjoyable, but not quite as good as it promises to be.

The Timaru Herald