By: Addison Wylie
What makes the romance and the chemistry click between Pat Solitano (played by Bradley Cooper) and Tiffany Maxwell (played by Jennifer Lawrence) in David O. Russell’s impressive Silver Linings Playbook is that both off-kilter characters understand the hardest part of a relationship – knowing how to push the others’ buttons.
Maybe it’s because both New Jerseyans live with similar bipolar disorders and the two troublemakers can connect on a familiar level. But, I think it’s because both characters find each other attractive and like to irk the other. It gives the audience pleasure watching these two flirt and annoy each other until their red in the face from frustration and flattery. Now, they just need to learn how to have a straightforward date…
That’s not the only pleasurable attribute Silver Linings Playbook has going for it though. Just about everything is fine tuned to an enjoyable degree. It’s hard to find a flaw in this dramedy.
The film has an incredible ensemble who all put in memorable performances, no matter how big the role is. Cooper proves that when given a troubled character such as Pat, he is able to keep being his charismatic self while also being able to delve into dark spots. It’s a knock-out lead performance that’ll most certainly put Cooper on the map as “not just another pretty face”.
Lawrence is wicked as the joyously conniving Tiffany. Like Cooper, the role allows Lawrence to stay charismatic while taking on attributes that are unlike anything she’s played before. In fact, this wild character is a departure for the young talent.
The character is written as a loveable pixie, but not so much that it brings the story out of its believability. As each layer of Tiffany unravels and we find out more about her, Lawrence becomes even more interesting and enchanting.
But, let’s not forget about the stellar supporting cast. De Niro may always have that recognizable presence but the role of Pat’s father, Pat Solitano Sr., is an intriguing one.
In order to have his favourite football team, the Eagles, reign victorious, Pat’s father has a routine. Things must be in a proper spot, certain people must be present to watch the game with him. The younger Pat may be living with a bipolar disorder, but the possibility of Pat Sr. abiding by a similar disorder, OCD, becomes more apparent. It’s up to De Niro to quietly display more and more of these characteristics as the film progresses. He’s an absolute joy to watch.
Jacki Weaver is kind hearted and sweet as Cooper’s Mother and Chris Tucker, playing the role of Pat’s buddy Danny, has never been more on fire. As these two characters enter a scene, the energy picks up even more and we find ourselves laughing at the back-and-forth banter and feeling compassion towards both personalities.
The story of Pat trying to get back together with his wife, Nikki (played by Brea Bee), has Cooper always having alternate motivations in order to get closer to her. Tiffany has a way of getting the two back together but only if Pat follows her favours and orders.
If you can figure out Tiffany’s conniving ways early on in the film (most notably in a scene where Tiffany accuses Pat of harassment outside a busy theatre), you’ll be able to see where the pieces fall. However, as the film forms this attraction between Tiffany and Pat, audiences will get a satisfying sense of this demented sense of romance mixed with elements of classic Hollywood.
One more thing. Movies can handle mental illnesses in a glamorized manner that doesn’t make the actors look disheveled. They still look like movie stars.
I didn’t necessarily have that worry with writer/director David O. Russell because having seen his work, I know he doesn’t goof around and he has no interest in making everything squeaky clean. His films are grounded in reality, even if they spike towards the absurd (see I Heart Huckabees).
I wasn’t proven wrong by the end of the movie. Russell’s direction and his screenwriting (adapting from a novel of the same name by Matthew Quick) never puts these characters in a light that’s always positive or beautiful. They may always have charisma and the incredible ability to deliver zingers and emotions, but these characters do feel like they could exist in our reality.
That believability is always apparent, both in what holds these troubled characters back and what pushes them forward. It’s a fantastic film that ought to sweep everyone off their feet.