A doolally delight: Sex, laughter and mental problems. It's not the usual romcom formula – but it works
08:10 GMT, 23 November 2012
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (15)
Verdict: Screwball comedy at its screwiest
Silver Linings Playbook is written and directed by David O. Russell. His last film was the Oscar-nominated boxing biopic The Fighter, but before that he dealt in comedies with an eccentric tinge, such as Spanking The Monkey, Three Kings and (the funniest of the lot) Flirting With Disaster.
This time, he’s taken a novel about a comically dysfunctional family and turned it into a Hollywood romcom with a difference.
Not only does it include elements of
Strictly Come Dancing (or, as they call it in America, Dancing With The
Stars), but both the male and female leads (Bradley Cooper and Jennifer
Lawrence) are physically attractive and mentally disturbed. You could
argue this is nothing new in screwball comedy.
Scroll down to watch the trailer
Odd couple: Jennifer Lawrence, left as Tiffany, and Bradley Cooper as Pat Solitano in Silver Linings Playbook
Neither of the two leading characters played by Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn in the 1938 classic Bringing Up Baby was exactly well balanced.
But Silver Linings Playbook tests our patience in unprecedented ways. In the case of the hero, Pat Solitano, you can’t help thinking that if he started taking his medication, most of his problems would disappear.
Mind you, then we wouldn’t have a film. And Bradley Cooper does a fine job of making us understand why Pat prefers not to take his drugs; he feels more alive without them. And though he occasionally turns violent, that’s usually because others have tested him beyond endurance.
At several points, I was reminded pleasurably of Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. In an insane world, maybe it’s only the mad man who sees things clearly.
Pat’s just come out of eight months in a psychiatric hospital, where he was sent after beating up a middle-aged teacher he found doing more than showering with his wife.
Pat returns home to live with his
parents. Mum (Jacki Weaver) does a decent job of looking after him, as
far as she can. Dad (Robert De Niro) is less of a help, suffering from
an obsessive compulsive disorder and a gambling problem. Dad also
favours Pat’s brother (Shea Whigham), who never wastes any opportunity
to crow about his successes.
Living with the parents: Jacki Weaver, left as Pat's mother, and Robert De Niro as his father in the romcom
Pat is crazily determined to win back his wife, but she’s taken out a restraining order on him, and his friends have other ideas.
One (John Ortiz) introduces Pat to his sister-in-law Tiffany (Lawrence), who’s more than a little deranged after the death of her cop husband.
She’s looking for a partner in a local dance competition. She reckons Pat will do, though his early efforts are reminiscent of Michael Vaughan’s in his ‘hanging basket’ phase.
Part of the fun is watching them improve, and not only at dancing. Lawrence has already proved herself a fine actress in The Burning Plain, Winter’s Bone and The Hunger Games.
She’s great at showing emotional turmoil behind a mask of toughness, but here she exhibits a new, comic flair. She is also incredibly sexy. It’s easy to see why she’s the hottest young actress in Hollywood.
Mr Cooper already has his own fan club after movies like The Hangover, but here he shows a depth, vulnerability and charm we haven’t seen before.
The film skates over issues of mental illness, only starts to get going with the belated introduction of Miss Lawrence, and ultimately follows a relatively conventional romcom flightpath.
But there are times when it does something new with the genre — and it does make you care about the protagonists. That’s good enough for me.
Now watch the trailer