Silver Linings Playbook deserves to be "feel-good" movie of the year

Director David O. Russell’s latest film “Silver Linings Playbook” (based on Matthew Quick’s novel of the same name) walks a fine line between psychological drama and romantic comedy but does so with such exuberance that if you blink you’ll forget to question the unusual juxtaposition.

Pat Solitano, Jr. (Bradley Cooper) has just been released from the Pennsylvania State Mental Hospital after eight court-ordered months on the understanding that he will live with his parents and continue taking his medications. The reason he was locked up to begin with? He recently beat his wife’s lover nearly to death, and she has since divorced and filed a restraining order against him. Pat’s new plan upon getting back home: win her back.

His return to his working class Philly suburb is not that simple. His parents, though enthusiastic for his recuperation, are unsure of how to treat Pat’s violent mood swings and unrealistic expectations. His father, Pat Sr., (Robert De Niro) is a dedicated Eagles fan who has been issued a lifetime ban for fighting at games. Since then, he has been working as a bookie from home, an arrangement which has gotten him into some financial straits which play out later on. His wife (Jacki Weaver) tries to juggle the superstitions and unexpected similarities of the two men but is met with mixed success.

Change comes in the form of Pat Jr.’s unexpected friendship with a fellow social misfit, Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a young widow living nearby in her parents renovated garage. Tiffany is something of a Hollywood stock character: a blunt, practical, female lead who forces our hero to come to terms with reality. Lawrence manages to breathe some life into Tiffany’s familiar personality which definitely helps to quiet automatic associations with other similar characters (Amy Adams’ bartending college dropout comes quickly to mind). One of the absolute best scenes in the film includes Pat and Tiffany exchanging thoughts on antidepressants and other behavioral medications to the evident discomfort of their tablemates at a dinner party.

Eventually, the general search for silver linings comes to a head with a massive gamble involving an Eagles game and a dance competition that Pat and Tiffany plan to compete in. And though the deus ex machina is cranking pretty loudly at this point, it’s hard to deny the quirky heart at the film’s center.

“Silver Linings Playbook” has been extremely well-received by critics and fans alike for its tragicomic approach to love and stability.

“[It was] an emotionally engaging film about mental illness and recovery that works to show the public the intimacy and struggles associated with psychological disorders. It was raw, honest, touching and cringe-worthy at moments,” Kate Wilsterman ’14 said.

Clearly the Academy was similarly impressed, as the film has been nominated in eight categories, including Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress. As De Niro’s character says in the film, “When life reaches out with a moment like this, it’s a sin if you don’t reach back.”

“Silver Linings Playbook” is this year’s feel-good movie and a real contender at this weekend’s Oscars.

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