Twitter Plot Summary: Both Pat and Tiffany have issues, so it makes perfect sense that they help each other out. Right?
Five Point Summary:
1. That’s no way to treat a book. Or a window, for that matter.
2. Marriage apparently messes everybody up.
3. Dance montage!
4. They’re talking sports stats, yet I’m not bored. Crikey.
5. Never has anybody been more excited at getting a 5/10 in a dance contest.
Both Bradley Cooper’s Pat and Jennifer Lawrence’s Tiffany are damaged people when we first meet them. Pat has recently emerged from a psychiatric home after his marriage ended on less than positive terms, whilst Tiffany is reeling from the end of her own marriage. When traditional methods of therapy don’t do their job, they end up helping each other through their problems through regular dance sessions. Their dance routine will ultimately be performed in front of an audience and a panel of judges as part of the final act, part of a double or nothing bet where the routine is as mixed up and random as Pat and Tiffany are.
Tackling mental health is always a tricky affair in cinema, but when it’s treated with respect, as it is here, then it usually works out. The actions of both Pat and Tiffany are amusing, yes, but it’s not a case of laughing at their medical issues. The reasons behind their mental health problems are covered in a sympathetic manner, and it’s clear that they are more than capable of functioning in the real world. This is all sold perfectly by Cooper and Lawrence without lapsing into the obvious cliches of people who are bipolar or have specific neuroses.
Somehow a discussion about statistics – and statistics about American Football, no less – remains not just engaging but positively entertaining. It’s all down to the delivery and interplay between Robert De Niro and Jennifer Lawrence for making this potentially dry dialogue zing and leap off the page. This is indicative of Lawrence’s performance in general, completely embodying the character. She manages to find the balance between being a screaming harpy and the more mellow moments, and never becomes annoying or irritating. Suffice to say, the Academy Award was well deserved.
The relationship between Pat and his father Pat Sr (the aforementioned De Niro) is the secondary focus of the story, the older man who wants his son to spend time with him but only on his own terms. This all ties in with Pat’s constant focus on his past – the wedding ring he keeps on his finger, refusing to acknowledge the reasons for his marriage ending and so on. In this respect it’s a story about reconciliation, learning to let the past go and moving on. It’s also obviously about self improvement as per the title – seeking the silver lining in any situation and becoming a better person as a result of any ups and downs you may experience. It’s a good lesson to take away regardless of your background or status.
It has a somewhat cliche ending, but Silver Linings Playbook is more than the sum of its generic rom-com origins. The script is a delight, mixing genuine emotional drama with genuinely amusing moments, and providing two central characters who are entertaining whilst united by their individual neuroses. There’s a lot to balance but director David O Russell does so with aplomb, and just goes to show that mental health doesn’t have to be a taboo subject if handled with care and sensititivity.