Let me start by saying I find Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper to be highly skilled and enjoyable actors to watch. Silver Linings Playbook is no exception — both actors play the roles so well you feel their pain.
But, the movie really is a walk on the dark side. It is a starkly realistic view of mental illness and of a person’s unhealthy ability to latch onto an unrealistic and unattainable goal.
The story opens with former teacher Pat Solitano (Cooper) being released from a mental institution. As the story unfolds, you learn that after severely beating his wife’s lover, in lieu of jail time, Pat is offered treatment. When he arrives home, his mental illness seems to be, at least in part, fostered by parents who also suffer from lesser degrees of mental illness.
Despite his eight months in the hospital, Pat is convinced he and his wife will reunite. When he is set up on a dinner date with Tiffany (Lawrence), who also suffers from mental illness — triggered by the death of her husband, Pat is pulled into a dancing project. In the process, Pat and Tiffany slowly develop a relationship.
The darkness in the movie comes from the frank — and often disturbing reactions — Pat has along his path to creating a strategy for dealing with his illness. The movie does not pretend that Tiffany and Pat have a healthy relationship — or even that there is long-term hope for the pair. Instead it relies on an almost documentary style approach to telling their stories.
They score a few small victories along the way, but the struggle outweighs any good they draw into their lives.
At its core Silver Linings Playbook is a love story. Even though it is not a feel-good movie, the film does offer a glimpse inside mental illness and the affect it has on family members.
Rated 3.5 out of 5.