Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence deliver acting masterclasses here. Not just when they share the screen, which demonstrates a screen chemistry which is intoxicating, but in their individual stories which takes a look at mental health without being a depressing, dark movie, too raw to relate to.
Not that the scenes concerning mental health are not treated seriously. Cooper’s character, Pat, is struggling with a breakdown he had after his wife left him. The movie gives glimpses of this moment, particularly as Pat is constantly reminded of the pain and struggles to let go. These scenes are incredible to watch and Cooper doesn’t overplay it, instead opting for a performance which is understated but effective.
The quest to win his wife back means Pat crosses paths with Lawrence’s Tiffany and he meets a person as troubled as he is but for very different reasons. The writing is clever here, as although their mental health issues are different and present differently too, they have so many parallels that you are want their relationship, as complicated as it is, to succeed.
The strength of the movie is when the pair are together. The early scenes between them are awkward and painful but never stale. The later scenes, which heavily involve dancing, are perfect. The film slow-builds a realistic relationship between the two and although the movie is arguably one with a love story at the centre, it never feels cliched and the story develops in a natural, believable way.
It also helps that they are well-supported. Chris Tucker plays it under-stated, Julia Styles is perfect as a “superior” sister with a “perfect” life and Jacki Weaver is the doting, sympathetic Mother. If it wasn’t for how good the starring pair are, Robert De Niro as Pat’s Father, would steal the movie. This is classic De Niro, tightly-wound, misunderstanding the situation and dealing with his own, more subtle but certainly present, mental health issues. The scenes he shares with Lawrence are great but the ones with a depressed Cooper are even better.
The plot builds slowly and carefully but manages to under-cut the great, realistic portrayals of mental health and its wider effects by hinging the finale on a very convoluted plot point. It feels silly compared to how effective the tone of the rest of the movie is. Add to this a far too convenient and “happy” ending and you can’t help but feel the movie is loses track of what the central story was seemingly doing all the way through.
Overall, Silver Linings Playbook is a fantastic look at mental health and the way it effects everyone around us. This is not a melodramatic movie which baits awards but instead a film reliant on two fantastic powerhouse performances from Cooper and Lawrence. It is a shame that the ending seems to under-cut what works so well throughout the rest of the film.
Rating – 4.5
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