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Silver Linings Playbook (15)
Picture House, The Gate
18th November 2012

★★★★☆

Boy meets girl, one is married to a ghost, the other to flesh and blood with a restraining order. Add in a heap of antidepressants like lithium and clonazepam and it's practically a love story for the Twitter generation.

Pat Solitano Jr (Bradley Cooper) has been living with bipolar disorder all his life. However, it wasn't until he caught his wife, Nikki (Brea Bee) sleeping with fellow teacher Doug Culpepper (Ted Barba) that his illness came to a head and quite badly. So badly in fact that the courts sent him off to a mental institution in Baltimore to help him get his condition under control using a combination of medication and therapy.

We enter Pat's life just as his mother Dolores (Jacki Weaver) is discharging him and taking him home. The music used throughout the film is 70s rock, with loud electric guitar and peaceful synthy bits. It's erratic, inconsistent, often inspired - mimicking Pat's unstable mind.

The introduction of his would-be Cinderella, Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) helps speed up the pace of the film and gives the story a clearer direction. Both Pat and Tiffany have an awkward way with words and it's a pleasure watching the two of them bounce off each other, particularly when they first meet, at a sit-down dinner organised by Tiffany's sister Veronica (Julia Stiles) and her husband, Pat's friend Ronnie (John Ortiz).

Silver Linings Playbook is very much a film of two halves, with the first exploring mental illness and tackling some heavy subject matter, and the second, romance. Essentially, we have the themes of The Perks of Being a Wallflower in reverse and a lot more light-hearted. You wait for a mainstream film covering the difficult topic of mental illness and then two come along at once. It's probably not so surprising, considering this combination of romance alongside weighty issues (like existentialism) was at the heart of David O'Russell's previous comedy offering, I Heart Huckabees in 2004. He's also shown a steady hand at combining romance, of sorts, with erratic personalities in his 2010 Oscar winner The Fighter.

While this probably won't net him an award, the characters are all great company. Pat's parents, his friends from the institute, his therapist, his friend who really seems like he could with a therapist - they are all well developed even though not the focus of the story. When Pat walks back into his own life and we see his dad's bizarre OCD habits, his mom's dated kitchen skills, his brother's complete lack of tact - we accept all of this at face value. Pat may be the one who was committed, but his relatives aren't exactly normal either. They're written with all the quirks and flaws of a typical family and this is what makes them so endearing.

While Cooper isn't the strongest actor, usually relying on whizz-bang action (Limitless) or a strong ensemble to see him through (The Hangover, The A-Team), he deserves credit here. Lawrence too has ditched the casting that led her to action roles of late (The Hunger Games, X-Men: First Class) and brings warmth to Tiffany. It's hard to single out any of the supporting cast, because they're all truly excellent, but perhaps it's Anupam Kher as Dr Cliff Patel and Ortiz who deserve a mention. Both actors go from serious to hilarious in zero to sixty, eliciting perhaps the most laughs after the leads.

It's probably the jarring between the two film styles that prevents us from giving this a higher score, but we admit whole-heartedly we enjoyed the drama and the rom com in equal measures, even if they didn't come together as well as they've been blended in the past.

Silver Linings Playbook was released in the UK on 21st November 2012.

Nearest tube station: Notting Hill Gate (Central, Circle, District)



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