Mental illness can be a crippling and all consuming presence in a person’s life. Most films that tackle the stigma around this issue do so with little empathy or over exaggerated assumptions of what life is like to live with an illness. Therefore, I was hesitant when I walked into the cinema to watch David O. Russell’s adaptation of Mark Quick’s novel of the same name, Silver Linings Playbook.
It was, in fact, the day after the Academy Awards ceremony, in which Silver Linings Playbook’s Jennifer Lawrence was honoured with the Best Actress trophy. Jennifer Lawrence is amazing, not only in this film, but in real life. Tell me, are there any other “It-girls” who could fall over whilst climbing a simple set of stairs and still have a laugh about it? No, only J-Law could.
The film follows bipolar sufferer and former teacher Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper), who returns home to live with his parents after a long stay in a mental institution. He is convinced that his unfaithful wife still loves him (regardless of the restraining order she has against him), and sets out to turn his life around and “find a silver lining” to prove to her that he is still worth it. This is where Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) comes in. She too suffers from mental illness and struggles to function “normally” after she was widowed at a young age. Together, the unlikely pair embark on a journey to find a light in the constant darkness that is their lives.
Screen legends Robert De Niro and Australia’s Jackie Weaver are superb as Pat’s supportive and patient parents, and along with Cooper, they provide some of the most heart-felt and confronting scenes in the film. Their constant presence is a reassuring light in Pat’s life, as he comes to terms with what relationships entail and how important they are. Silver Linings Playbook is not quite a rom-com, but not quite a serious drama, it does show however the power of telling stories of realistic people in realistic situations.
For a film that deals with the darker side of life, it is almost impossible to walk out of Silver Linings Playbook without feeling some sense of joy and revelation. It is a realistic and, at times, confronting view of mental illness that doesn’t pity the characters, but rather lets us see their side of life.
A truly rewarding film that deserves all the praise that it gets.
This review was published on the website for RMIT’s Catalyst Magazine.