Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in Silve Linings Playbook

{Silver Linings Playbook opens in Seattle on Wednesday, November 21. Check local theater listings for screenings}

While I’m not sure I can agree with that Silver Linings Playbook is worthy of all the Oscar buzz it’s been getting, I do agree that’s a sure crowd-pleaser … and I’m saying this as a girl who can’t stand Bradley Cooper.

Mr. Cooper hasn’t quite won me over like Colin Farrell eventually did (he was too awesome in both Horrible Bosses & Fright Night for me to ignore), but SLP did at least made me think he can do something different than the roles he normally takes.

Pat Solitano (Cooper)’s mom arrives to pick him up from the institution he’s been in for eight months after he flipped out upon coming home to find his wife cheating on him, and beat her lover almost to death. But after being treated for bipolarism due to the court ruling him mentally incompetent, Pat’s ready to face the world with a brand new, positive, “Silver Linings” attitude. He's focused on the positive, working out to please his wife (it's mentioned several times that he was fat when he was committed, which is something that wore on my nerves), and determined to win her back. 

When he arrives back to his parent’s Philly home with his mom, he finds dad (Robert De Nero, who’s grown into the perfect grumbling old man) has lost his job and is relying on booking football gambling to get by, his wife has moved on … with her lover and a restraining order, and his brother is still the same self-centered, tactless jock he always was.

He also finds best friend Ronnie stuck in a controlling marriage, and Ronnie’s wife’s newly widowed sister, Tiffany, (Jennifer Lawrence) exciting in a way he wasn’t quite expecting. As Pat struggles with his mental illness, and Tiffany struggles with hers (depression and sexual addiction), they eventually strike up a deal that will benefit both of them—she gets a dance partner, he gets a way to communicate with his estranged wife.

It’s not hard to imagine the ending of this film; nor are they are any real surprises along the way. And it took awhile for me to get used to the way they played Pat’s BP for laughs. I mean, I know you have to make light of everything sometimes, but there were some points where I felt like maybe the comedy was just a little too much. Throwing a Hemingway book out a window and waking your parents up at 4am to complain about the depressing ending is one thing; having a rage-filled flip out in your pyschiatrist's office when you hear the song played at your wedding is another. 

Though this is a romance at the core, these are two people struggling with real mental illnesses. And while there were some dramatic moments, I felt like the movie made being bipolar look less like a serious disease, and more like an endearing quirk.     

But I’m probably just being too picky.

Shades of real life do poke through, and even though you know the outcome from the beginning, there are some gut-punch moments. Every time one of Pat's friends or family members says, "I'm sorry I couldn't get up the hospital to see you … " – and there are several – you flinch, thinking about how this guy has been written off by almost everyone because of the stigma of being in a mental hospital. 

Silver Linings Playbook is well cast (yes, even Cooper), and it’s easy to get sucked into the lives of these characters. Lawrence is fantastic, as always. And De Niro and Jackie Weaver are particularly easy to fall for as Cooper’s parents—even with the extreme Philly stereotypes. Which reminds me; I need to look up how to make crabby snacks and home-maise.

More importantly, the audience I viewed this with seemed to love it — and I can see why. I don't mean to contradictory; I really don't. Despite its flaws, it's got romance AND sports AND funny family drama AND a really hilariously amazing can't stop laughing about it dance scene. 

Recommended as an entertaining way to spend your theater hours, and (since you’re not me) it just might become one of your favorite romantic comedies EVER. Who knows?