By Jenny Neufeld
MOUNT VERNON, New York, U.S.A. – Who would have thought that the ‘World’s Sexiest Man’ and the winning tribute of The Hunger Games could mold together, with the work of director David O. Russell, in an intense, yet heartwarming, and surprisingly nail-biting, adaption of Matthew Quick’s novel, Silver Linings Playbook?
I sure didn’t.
As I walked into the theater I sat down in my seat expecting your typical “rom-com,” with the sappy love-story, but a chick flick was far from what I got.
Silver Linings Playbook follows the journey of confused and estranged Pat Solitano Jr., played by Bradley Cooper, named last year by People as the sexiest man alive. Recently released from a committed period in a mental facility, Pat must begin his new life away from everything he once knew: his wife, his job and seemingly stable mentality.
Stuck on the idea that reuniting with his estranged wife, Nikki, is the “silver lining” in a dark cloud, Pat constantly refers to the idea “excelsior: ever upward” to solve his problems. With the help of an unexpected friend, Tiffany Maxwell, played by Jennifer Lawrence, Pat, along with his family, comes to terms with his condition and learns from the conflicts and experiences that life throws at him.
For a movie filmed in a mere 33 days, everything – the plotline, the casting, even the raw cinematography – was brilliantly executed, with few flaws.
Although Russell’s plotline is different from Quick’s novel, the ideas and themes portrayed in the film are just as powerful and raw as that of the original book.
The timeline of Silver Linings Playbook is set during the second half of the NFL football season of 2008, a crucial time for the Solitanos, who are major fans of the Philadelphia Eagles.
With Mom and Pop, Dolores and Patrizio Solitano, played by Jackie Weaver and Robert Deniro, the feeling from watching Pat’s family was reminiscent of Sunday afternoons spent with the family, eyes glued to the television, fingers crossed for a favorite team, and family issues repressed to the back of the freezer.
But Silver Linings Playbook struck me on a much deeper level, starting with Russell’s excellent choice in casting.
Commonly, in Hollywood, mentally unstable characters are often casted to those actors who fit the stereotypical look of someone “crazy” who belongs in the mental institution, or are in need of an exorcism of some sort.
In contrast to this Hollywood stereotype, casting Cooper – someone who commonly takes on the role as the reckless womanizer in a film – brought insight and truth to the fact that the most normal looking people deal with inner issues and battles on a day-to-day basis. Casting Cooper broke the wall between reality and the stereotype that Hollywood often puts on people with mental disorders.
As for the character Tiffany Maxwell, many women, from Blake Lively, to Angelina Jolie, even Zooey Deschanel, were considered for the role. But Lawrence brought something different to her role. Her impeccably raw, yet comical personality molded well with what Russell hoped Maxwell would become.
Rather than a romantic, heartbroken “damsel in distress,” Lawrence – who played the heroic Katniss Everdeen in the 2012 hit The Hunger Games – brought an intense, strong hearted, walled in, aspect to Tiffany Maxwell’s character. I do not believe anyone could have fit the role better than Lawrence her self.
Secondly, as I watched the film, I began to see the message Russell portrayed in every character. Although the story mainly follows Pat Jr.’s own diagnosis and path to a stable state of mind, I saw each character with their own problem or instability, from OCD, to depression, to anger management, to a simple lack of self confidence. Both Quick and Russell’s simple detail to the characters portrays the message that in life, every person has inner battles that they repress or fight on a day-to-day basis.
While initially, it may not look like an Academy Award nominee, and was not set as “Oscar bait” from the start of production, Silver Linings Playbook is an impeccable journey of self-healing. Although it sounds like a typical romantic comedy, with love interests and drama joining at the hip, all in all, it teaches a message, for both young and old, that you should find the silver linings in life.
Silver Linings Playbook deserves the same recognition as Oscar baits Les Miserables and Lincoln.
Those up for the Academy Award for ‘Best Picture’ should watch out. Silver Linings Playbook is a winner.
Remember: find a silver lining in every dark cloud. Excelsior, my friend, excelsior.