Review: Silver Linings Playbook

When a film gets a bad review, the reviewer will offer all kinds of reasons for their dissatisfaction. More often than not though, these are just ways of circling around the fact that they just didn't get it.

Silver Linings Playbook is a highly regarded romantic comedy drama about a man, Pat (Bradley Cooper), trying to readjust to society after a spell being institutionalized, and I just didn't get it. I didn't even get what it was that I was supposed to be getting.

A lot of people do get it – it won the audience award at the Toronto Film Festival and was the surprise film at the London Film Fest. The people on the screen very clearly get it and carry on as if the film's quality has already been clearly established beyond any conceivable doubt. Yet to me it seemed like an exercise in constantly manoeuvring top class acting talent into slanging match range.

My, my but they are all crazy here. Pat was diagnosed as bi-polar following a violent episode after discovering his wife with another man. He returns home to live with his family, headed by his OCD father (Robert De Niro) who has various good luck rituals to adhere to when watching the local NFL team, the Philadelphia Eagles. Pat has a restraining order against him going near his ex-wife but he tries to make a connection with her through a friendship with Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) who is the sister of his ex-wife best friend. She's a bit crazy too. And then they start rehearsing for a dance contest.

You suspect initially that some satire on America's self help culture is intended but Pat's obsessing about silver linings and happy endings is taken quite straight. Maybe the idea is that mental illness is an acceptable coping mechanism for modern consumerist society. By the end, the film has gentled eased itself into conventional rom-com territory, suggesting that there is a Sandra Bullock lining for everyone, as long as they stick to the programme.

The cast is top quality, though you do notice that OCD De Niro is just like any other kind of De Niro only with even more shrugging. He is pushing seventy now and while Pacino still has a strutting peacock swagger to him, De Niro has been startlingly diminished by age. The shoulders ascend, the neck retracts and he looks perplexed — he has the range of a ventriloquist's doll.

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Director: David O Russell

Starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro, Jacki Weaver, John Ortiz and Chris Tucker

Length: 110mins