Don’t overlook ‘Silver Linings Playbook’


Is it just me, or does it seem like everyone is medicated and/or sees a therapist in this day and age?  I suppose this is a good thing.  With health insurance covering therapy now, those with severe depression or anger management issues are finally receiving the help they need.  But seriously, are we all now medicated to some degree?

“Silver Linings Playbook” is a new David O. Russell film about a young man, played by Bradley Cooper, who has recently been released from a mental health facility for attacking and beating a man he caught in the shower with his wife.  Cooper’s character suffers from bipolar disorder.  He is medicated, and continues to see his therapist – even after his release.

Now, here’s the strange part.  This movie is a comedy.  That’s right.  A comedy.  Let that sink in for a while, and then let me tell you that “Silver Linings Playbook” treats mental illness with the seriousness (if not the gravity) it deserves.  The script, which Russell adapted from the Matthew Quick novel, treads a very thin line.  This subject matter could have easily been tastelessly exploited (Think Mel Brooks).  But instead of looking down on Cooper’s character, the script acknowledges his illness, and then builds a story around his post-facility life.

My only problem with “Silver Linings Playbook” is that the Cooper character spends all his time obsessing over his wife.  Granted, it’s important to know that he still loves her, but even a fool knows when a marriage is over.  Making love to another man in a shower typically indicates such a marital conclusion.  She obviously doesn’t love him anymore, and his constant whining rubbed my nerves the wrong way.

But just as I was ready to pan this picture, a young lady played by Jennifer Lawrence comes into his life, and then “Silver Linings Playbook” shifts into high gear.  She has her own neuroses, and takes similar medication to Cooper’s character.  They hit it off, and enter a dance competition.  Jennifer Lawrence hit big last year with “Winter’s Bone,” and she’s absolutely wonderful here.  Her character is smart, and unbridled, like an adult version of Ellen Page’s character in “Juno.”  If Lawrence doesn’t earn at least an Oscar nomination, there’s something wrong with the academy.

The supporting cast is all good, but especially Robert DeNiro as Cooper’s father, a man with his own unresolved and undiagnosed bipolar issues, as well as a humorous streak of superstition thrown in for good measure.  DeNiro’s character is a die-hard Philadelphia Eagles fan, who has been banned from attending their games due to fighting.  See the connection?  Like father, like son.  DeNiro continues his lifelong streak of never giving a subpar performance, and here he’s at his funniest since 1988’s “Midnight Run.”

While “Silver Linings Playbook” is a comedy, it’s not light and fluffy summertime fare.  My fear is that it will be lost in the year-end slew of quality films vying for Oscar consideration.  Don’t overlook this one.  It’s funny, smart, and features a great performance from Jennifer Lawrence.

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