Oscar season is now on the way and Silver Lining Playbook is a strong contender to pick up a few awards this year.
The film follows Pat (Bradley Cooper) who has just come out of an institution after beating up his wife’s lover into a bloody pulp. Pat still wants to make his marriage work while dealing with a restraining order, his well-meaning parents (including an OCD Robert De Niro), and his bi-polar. Thrust into his life is newly widowed Tiffany-who deals with her grief by sleeping around.
This sounds like it could be some wacky Hollywood comedy about some oddballs, and it kind of is in a way, but the film is also serious at times. Pat and Tiffany’s mental illness are not brushed away or there to be an entertaining quirk to the lead characters, they are treated seriously and the characters are shown to be deeply flawed and in need of help. The fact they are also likeable comes down to the great performances by Cooper and Lawrence, in any other hands these characters could have been unsympathetic and irritating. Bradley’s Pat is someone struggling to get his life-and marriage back on track and it is shown to be a struggle for him. You are willing for him to get better and turn his life around. It’s a great performance by Cooper who we’ve seen mostly in broad comedic roles. It’s still a comedy but there are tough edges to his performance.
Lawrence is also on brilliant form as Pat’s new friend Tiffany. It’s a wonderful performance that could easily have fallen into the annoying, “kooky”, girl role, but Lawrence restrains from allowing her character to fall into that trap. It’s a three dimensional character who is hurting deep inside and has dealt with her grief badly at times, but she is also trying to build her life back and throws herself into a dance competition, blackmailing Pat into helping her.
It’s a film which also shows the difficulty families have in dealing with a loved one who suffers from a mental illness, while also showing us that maybe everyone has a bit of craziness inside them too. It’s probably one of the better portrayals of mental illness I’ve seen in mainstream Hollywood film.
Maybe some will feel the cheesy ending is too much, but having been on this journey with the characters I was rooting for them the whole way, and as Pat says why can’t there for once just be a happy ending?
A comedy that deserves to do well come Oscar time, and Cooper and Lawrence deserve all the nominations going.