“You say more inappropriate things than appropriate things”
What happens when you peg two downward spiraling characters, one of which is attempting to always see the ‘silver lining’ and the other who fails to even care enough to look, in the same room? You get a quirky romantic story of striving to be a better person directed and written by David O. Russell.
Pat (Bradley Cooper) has recently been released from a psychiatric hospital into the care of his parents, Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro) and Dolores (Jacki Weaver). Shortly after being released Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who has recently fallen into a deep dark depression after losing her husband, at a dinner with his old friend. This meeting spurns on a weird new friendship between two manic characters that seem to be done with social niceties, just into being who they wish to be and no more.
Russell is no spring chicken when discussing films residing entirely in some dramatic quirk, having given us I Heart Huckabees in 2004. Here however he manages to make the comedy more of an after effect than anything else. With Silver Linings Playbook Russell makes the awkward normal and asks his viewers to sit around in that moment as it piles up higher and higher making the abnormal some unreachable mark that we no longer ask for.
There’s something to be said about how the film discusses the topic of sex in relationships. As Pat, still stating his love for his wife, refuses to fall into the trap that Tiffany has set for every man she’s come across since the tragic ending of her marriage. It allows for their weird relationship to flourish in a way that would be impossible if the opposite occurred upon its first opportunity. Even later on when Pat’s friend, Danny (Chris Tucker), appears and injects a very sexual feeling into a very platonic partnership between Pat and Tiffany during their dance sessions it creates a weird awkwardness in a situation where awkward had already been redefined. While I doubt Russell had any intention of making this the adult version of Twilight in the topic of the importance of celibacy in relationships when you add the back story of how Pat entered the mental institution in the first place it’s something that can’t go unremarked.
One note where I felt the movie had an uneven viewing of was with the character of Pat Sr. and his relationship with his son, Pat. When Pat returns home at the beginning of the film we learn that Pat Sr. has lost his job and taken to bookmaking to earn a living. With the Philadelphia Eagles being a big part of the family – even before we see Pat’s home we hear him practicing a speech about Sunday being his favourite day because of the big meal and watching the game with the family – it’s odd to see how gambling is looked upon by this man. We see him complaining of how the remotes are being arranged because he feels it brings his team, who he’s thrown a considerable amount of money on, good luck. For the entire film we see this character place his life in the way of superstition and anything that opposes his superstitions are conflicts for him that he lashes out at. What makes it even more saddening is his ease of which he’s able to pick up new superstitions, when he notices something else that he thinks is doing the job for the Eagles he’ll happily jump on the bandwagon.
While the film doesn’t put a complete spotlight on Pat Sr. and his obvious gambling problem it definitely adds more questions to the film that remain unanswered. With the film’s climax it’s never truly discussed as we’re meant to believe, with the continued battles between Pat Sr. and Randy (Paul Herman) his opposite bookie, has been resolved in any way.
The film does a lovely job of making us turn from being worried for our protagonist, Pat, and wanting to take a closer look at some of the supporting characters, Pat Sr. and Tiffany, as they might just be even more messed up than Pat. The only difference between them and Pat is that Pat has legal marks against him.