Silver Linings Playbook is so good that, even if I had watched it at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, I still went on opening day in November. I also read the book by Matthew Quick last year, once I found out about the movie. While the movie deviates from the book in several, I believe, significant ways, it doesn’t do so in a way that makes the movie inferior to the book. In fact, I might even say that the changes may have been necessary to make the deeply-dark book into a dark-but-more-acceptable film.
Overall, just like in the book, the treatment of mental illness is quite uncomfortable. The juxtaposition of the diagnosed ill with the undiagnosed but equally “crazy” people around him is also uncomfortable. However, in both cases, the discomfort is realistic, meaningful and justified. One of the things I really liked about the movie is that you find yourself rooting for the characters, but the movie in no way tries to make you like them. In fact, the movie presents everyone probably in their worst light, and tells the viewer to take it or leave it. And yet the acting, directing and dialogue is so good that, a majority of viewers will choose to take it.
This movie also succeeds in being a dark and serious film about a dark and serious subject matter, but set in the context of a fun, sports/dance-oriented romantic comedy. David O. Russell did not even shift between the two. Instead, he masterfully is able to keep both elements alive at practically every part of the movie.
What also sells the movie is the superb acting from the leads and from the minor characters. Bradley Cooper plays Pat such that his schlocky optimism seems in character instead of put-on, and his illness, when not explicitly expressed, is still left bubbling somewhere close to the surface. It is a testament to her extreme talent and depth of understanding about her character that Jennifer Lawrence is able to make Tiffany, who on paper is probably the least likeable of characters, into the core of the movie and one that people root for. Robert de Niro plays a gambling addict who alternates seamlessly between loving his son and then allowing his superstitions to overtake this love. But it never seems strange – it just seems like an integral part of his character. It is rarely the case, but there was no weak link in the entire ensemble of characters.
Silver Linings Playbook is getting a lot of Oscar buzz, though that may change as more movies are released. After seeing the movie twice, it is definitely worth all of that and more. I would recommend this film to anyone who is allowed to see it (it’s R-rated in the US). It is emotional, fun, sad, realistic and very well-created and well-acted.