Film Review: Silver Linings Playbook poignantly portrays mental illness


Silver Linings Playbook may feature the likes of Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper, but it’s The Hunger Games’ Jennifer Lawrence that steals the movie and rightly deserves the Oscar buzz she’s been garnering.

Playbook follows Cooper’s Pat Solitano, a former teacher who’s been in a psychiatric hospital in Baltimore, Md. since he nearly beat his wife’s lover to death. Solitano has recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and has been struggling to deal with this news while he remains focused on winning his wife back.

Upon release from the hospital, Solitano is brought to live with his parents, hilariously played by Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro, whose lives are run by Solitano’s father’s obsession with the Philadelphia Eagles.

A friend of Solitano’s introduces him to Lawrence’s Tiffany Maxwell, a widow who may have more issues than Solitano, but she’s the only one who seems able to solve his.

While there were initial reservations that Jennifer Lawrence is too young to play a widow and Cooper’s love interest, those thoughts are quickly banished the moment Lawrence appears on screen. She dominates every scene and plays Tiffany with such a raw intensity that it’s impossible to take your eyes off her.

Cooper proves here that he’s more than a comedy man with a pretty face; he gives Solitano tortured layers to work through as the story progresses. De Niro is at his absolute best as a man obscenely obsessed with the Eagles but desperately trying to make himself appear saner than his son.

Then there’s Chris Tucker, who shows up as a hospital buddy of Solitano’s, offering some light humor with his frequent attempts to get out of the mental ward.

David O. Russell - whose last movie was 2010’s Oscar-winning The Fighter with Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg - both adapted the screenplay and directed Playbook, based on a novel by Matthew Quick.

Russell’s dialogue is fast-paced banter that frequently results in shouting matches as the characters try to work through their issues. Scenes go from raging intensity to lighthearted quirkiness that help keep the film from becoming too serious and too over-the-top. The characters are flawed, but entirely relatable and realistic.

Playbook is a clear Oscar contender for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director, and De Niro should also be awarded a nomination in the Best Supporting Actor category. But without a doubt, Tiffany is the role for which Lawrence should win her much-deserved Oscar for Best Actress.