‘Silver Linings Playbook’ tugs at one’s heartstrings

Published 9:36 am Friday, February 1, 2013

Chuck’s rating:
4 out of 5 thumbs up

The expression “every cloud has a silver lining” conveys optimism amidst adversity.

In “Silver Linings Playbook,” a gem of a romantic comedy-drama starring Bradley Cooper (“The Hangover I and II,” “Limitless”) and Jennifer Lawrence (“Hunger Games,” “Winter’s Bone”), main characters attempt to find rays of sunshine despite challenging circumstances.

Cooper’s role is that of Pat Solitano, a bi-polar former high school teacher who has been confined for eight months to a Philadelphia mental hospital. His release is conditional upon residing with aging parents, played by the priceless Robert DeNiro and the lesser known but accomplished Australian actress, Jackie Weaver (“Animal Kingdom,” “Stoker”).

Similar to 2004’s “Meet the Fockers,” DeNiro demonstrates skillful comedic timing as a parental figure. Mr. Solitano is a compulsive gambler who is obsessed with placing superstitious, over-sized bets on the Philadelphia Eagles.

Although genuinely concerned with the mental health of his son, his own obsessive behavior renders him incapable of constructive help. DeNiro’s humorous performance has received a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nomination.

Despite his illness, Pat is determined to reclaim his estranged wife and his former life. The determination is pitted against his ex-wife’s restraining order — enter Jennifer Lawrence as the brutally honest, but emotionally fragile Tiffany to provide a solution.

As a recent widower, Tiffany struggles with her identity and is in need of “finding her silver lining.” Lawrence’s spirited exchanges with Cooper as Pat, demonstrate acting depth and a mature range, which is partially absent in her role as the heroine Katness Everdeen in “Hunger Games.”

Director David Wilson (“Three Kings,” “The Fighter”) deserves credit for bringing out her best performance to date— a performance that has been nominated in the Best Actress category by the Motion Picture Academy.

In the male lead, Cooper proves more than a mere heartthrob. It is a substantive performance and deserving of its nomination for Best Actor in a lead role category.

Audiences will sympathize with Pat’s repeated frustrations and realistic attempts to conquer the turmoil and mood swings caused by his illness. The character’s overriding desire for “normalcy” without resorting to helpful medication is highly consistent with actions of bi-polar patients.

His on-screen sensitivity with Lawrence is genuine, not contrived and is enhanced by the director who allows the relationship to slowly run its course.

“Silver Linings Playbook” is not a routine romantic comedy. What makes Wilson’s film distinctive is twofold. First, the frequent juxtaposition of humor with dramatic moments, and second, the emergence of humor over drama to effectively lessen scene tension.

It is a difficult balance to maintain throughout the two-hour film. The outstanding cast make his approach work partly because Wilson encourages creative latitude and does not micromanage performers — a lesson for all professional managers.

“Silver Linings Playbook” is based on young-adult fiction writer Matthew Quick’s debut novel. Audiences will laugh as heartstrings are being tugged, which makes for grand viewing as evidenced by its eight Academy Award nominations.

The film is playing at most theaters throughout Hampton Roads .


CHUCK LILLEY of Franklin is a retired corporate manager. His email address is chulill@yahoo.com.