Looking for Playbook's silver lining
The New Year brings with it the immensely long awards season, including most notably the Golden Globes and the Oscars, that recognizes movies for their various feats and craft. This year’s award nominations were led by Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables, Ben Affleck’s Argo, Ang Lee’s Life of Pi and David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook.
Among these, Silver Linings Playbook (released November 2012) has received some of the most praise and buzz from critics, snatching eight Academy Award nominations, four Golden Globe nominations and four Screen Actors Guild nominations.
The movie details the rehabilitation journey of Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper), who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder following a violent altercation with his wife’s lover. Originally adapted from Matthew Quick’s 2008 novel, the movie’s storyline darts the up and down emotions of Pat and those around him. After eight months, he’s released from the mental health facility, and moves back in with his parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver).
Solitano tries to reconcile himself to a normal life and repair his relationship with his wife who has since issued him a restraining order. As he attempts to rebuild his life, he meets his friends’ sister-in-law, Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence), a young widow and sex addict recently fired from her job. Like Pat, Tiffany is also trying to fix her dysfunctional life.
The two develop a strange friendship, and Pat sees an opportunity to attempt reconciliation and communication with his wife through Tiffany. Tiffany agrees to help Pat on the condition that he becomes her partner in an upcoming dance competition. It isn't until Pat finds himself roped into training for the dance competition with Tiffany that the film reaches its climax.
Suddenly, all of Pat’s relationships and commitments clash: whether it is his relationship with his own father, or his commitment to Tiffany and dance practice. His experiences in therapy become relevant in helping him handle the onslaught of emotions and reactions, and his life finally starts to come together in the end. It isn’t the way he imagined it, but the film reminds us just how much of our lives lie beyond our control.
Silver Linings searches for that "silver lining," which becomes Pat’s mantra as he rehabilitates. The film’s depiction of raw and real reactions and emotions shines through the script with Cooper's and Lawrence’s performances.
So they have great chemistry; but why has the film garnered so many nominations during awards season?
Perhaps it's the grittiness--the depiction of something, namely mental illness, that slaps people in the face with its miserable mystery. Best Picture nominees usually aren't feel-good films. Perhaps audiences are cut most deeply by movies that lasso those uncontrollable and confounding life situations and find a way to conquer them through art.
Films like Silver Linings Playbook and Les Miserables fit this bill. Today’s society longs to face life's difficulties and scrape off the façade, without irony. The cinemas are not just a place to escape life, but to see it reflected back in a beautiful medium. Excellent artistic expression has ever limned our deepest struggles with a glimmer of silver.
Silver Linings Playbook is not the typical romantic comedy, but explores the darker side of human behavior tarnishes all relationships. With Linings, Russell opened questions that explore grappling with mental illness in a new way.
Silver Linings Playbook is rated R and now playing. Written and directed by David O. Russell, starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver.