Silver Linings Playbook
A(M) ★★★✩✩ T the Sydney preview of Silver Linings Playbook we were given a quick publicist’s rundown on the film’s achievements to date. Eight Academy Award nominations including best picture and best director for David O. Russell (making this the first film since Million Dollar Baby to be nominated for best picture and in all four acting categories). Four Golden Globe nominations with a best actress award for Jennifer Lawrence. Three BAFTA nominations and four from the Screen Actors Guild. Last week came news that the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts had chosen Silver Linings Playbook as its best picture of the year. No one has yet mentioned that Bradley Cooper, the male star, was named by People magazine in 2011 as the sexiest man alive. I thought you should know that, too.
So by any standards, it would seem, Silver Linings Playbook is a first-rate film, perhaps even a great one? Well, let me put it this way: I quite enjoyed it, and the acting is excellent. But just what sort of film is it meant to be? The studio calls it a comedy (not so sure), others a dramatic comedy, and the usually reliable Wikipedia a romantic comedy-drama. The filmmakers may not have been sure themselves. Russell is on record as saying that he rewrote the screenplay 20 times during the past four years — hardly a good sign. I also read that various scenes with Robert De Niro were filmed in more extreme or darker modes than the script suggested, pending a later decision, presumably, on whether De Niro’s character should be portrayed in harsher or warmer tones. I’m not sure which version was chosen — though De Niro, as always, makes a most engaging presence. He’s a more attractive character in his mature years than he was playing bruising prizefighters or paranoid gangsters for Martin Scorsese.
Set in Philadelphia, Silver Linings Playbook is the story of two lovers, each with a mental illness. Pat Solitano (Cooper) is a history teacher, recently discharged from a mental institution in Baltimore after eight months’ treatment for bi-polar disorder. The trigger for his illness (narrated in an early flashback with his therapist) was the discovery of his wife, Nikki, in the shower with a lover while Pat and Nikki’s wedding song, Stevie Wonder’s My Cherie Amour, plays on their bedroom stereo. Convinced that Nikki still loves him, and that he still loves Nikki in spite of everything, Pat is determined to win her back. Then he meets a pretty young widow Tiffany (Lawrence), who has lost her husband in a car accident. Tiffany is a sex addict who seeks to assuage her grief with strenuous jogging routines and serial encounters with partners of either sex.
Will Pat go back to Nikki (or, rather, will Nikki come back to Pat?), or will Pat and Tiffany make a go of things? Throughout his