I don’t like traditional romantic comedies. They tend to be cliche and boring, and they seem to give the impression that all you need to do is fix yourself up a little and show some dedication in order to win your potential partner, which is a little how Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) feels after his stint in the mental institution at the beginning of Silver Linings Playbook.
Fortunately, this is not a traditional romantic comedy.
As I’ve mentioned, Pat just gets out of a mental institution after nearly beating his (ex) wife’s lover to death. But of course, on getting out, he’s going to exercise, read his ex’s high school syllabus that she’s teaching, and then, all will be well, right?
Well, not exactly.
On returning home, Pat is reunited with his parents, Dolores (Jacki Weaver, playing a mother who is the very opposite of her Oscar nominated matriarch from Animal Kingdom, she does good work here with reasonably limited material), and Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro, and I’ll be damned if this isn’t a comeback performance for the ages. But more on that later), who more or less welcome him with open arms, trying to accept his adjusting to life beyond the hospital, and his eccentricities, like his fascination with everything having a silver lining.
Of course, in his attempts to exercise in order to win his wife, he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence). Tiffany is… Something, to put it mildly, a young widow adjusting to life without her husband, and her own depression, which manifested itself in the form of promiscuity after the death of her husband. Lawrence’s performance has been earning raves since the film came out, and rightly show, she brings empathy to the character, powerfully showing the ups and downs of her conditions, at times delicate, and at times incredibly volatile, her performance is excellent.
Earlier, I mentioned De Niro’s performance, describing it as a comeback for the ages, and I’d like to talk about that in a little more detail. De Niro has obviously always been a fantastic actor, and has the Oscars to prove it. But as of late, he’s been performing in slightly… Sub par projects, so to speak. But here, the material is excellent, and he is excellent in it. Pat Sr. also has a little mental eccentricity (OCD), like so many other characters in the film. He plays the disorder so well, the little nuances of adjusting things in the room so that they’re ‘just so’, and as well as playing him as well as the struggling father trying to help his son. De Niro, much like Lawrence, will likely be given an Oscar nomination come awards time, and this one is certainly well deserved.
One of the best things about the film is the energy that it has, it is constantly in motion, from the kinetic camerawork and editing to the sheer energy of the performances and the choreography (a dance competition plays a major part in the film’s plot). It’s always on the move, and this makes it a joy to watch. But of course, it’s not just high speed, laugh a minute comedy, there’s surprisingly powerful drama at work here, that the excellent script and performances bring out with ease.
Of course, it’s far from perfect, and in it’s final act, it does embrace those rom-com conventions that it stayed so far away from to begin with. But even then, it isn’t too glaring a fault, since the film has still embraced the oddball nature of it’s plot and characters, it doesn’t feel at all out of place for it to end the way it does.
All in all, this film is absolutely excellent. High energy direction and camerawork punctuate the great comedy, and the sheer quality of the cast allows the drama to blend in without a hitch. Expect nominations across the board, particularly for Lawrence and De Niro, who’s finally coming back to high quality acting, and doing so in spectacular fashion.