Review: Silver Linings Playbook

David O. Russell continues his winning streak after the magnificent, The Fighter, with the equally enjoyable Silver Linings Playbook. Whilst, it may feel rather self-righteous at points, it does prove to be a solid, thoroughly likeable watch.

After a stint in a Baltimore institution following a bipolar breakdown, former teacher, Pat (Bradley Cooper), returns to home - struggling to adjust to normal life. He sets out to win back his estranged wife, but in this quest meets a troubled young woman, Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) who manages to bring out the best in him.

David O. Russell's adaptation of Matthew Quick's novel avoids traditional romantic comedies norms - providing viewers with a heartfelt, realistic and mature addition to the genre. We're faced with two adults - who have both fallen from their paths in life due to mental illness - they are not portrayed as crazy, in fact these are perhaps the most normal characters in O. Russell's drama - we see well to do family man, Ronnie (John Ortiz) confiding in Pat about his difficult marriage and obsessive-compulsive Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro)  - yet neither of these character are labelled as ill. The focus on 'damaged' characters is a bold move that pays off.

Like The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook sticks with themes one may expect from one of O. Russell's films - mainly unconventional family life. This comes in the form of Pat's difficult relationship with his father - Pat Sr.'s does not fully understand his son's illness feeling frustration and isolation as a result of it. This seems to provide a barricade between the pair, which proves to be the heart of Silver Linings Playbook - it is given further impact through the dramatic clout of Robert De Niro, who is truly outstanding here. Seeing this relationship gradually mended, with the pair gradually beginning afresh is delicately handled and incredibly touching. The same can be said from the developing relationship between Pat and Tiffany. The pair's straight-talking energy proves to be a refreshing change from traditional Hallmark romances, once again championed through stellar performances.

There is a huge amount of heart in Jennifer Lawrence's stunning lead performance. The actress excels as the damaged, Tiffany finding a focus in life through the time she spends with Pat. Cooper likewise, brings a convincing sense of energy and gravitas to Silver Linings Playbook. The actor one again shows a gift for comedy, allowing us to laugh at some of the inappropriate, yet completely sincere, comments made by Pat.

Unfortunately, there is a distinct feeling of misplaced self-righteousness in O. Russell's film. It is unlikely to change your life or the way you see the world, yet proceeds as if it has some unequivocal message about the human condition at its heart. This primarily feels present at the excessive (yet entertaining) conclusion which sees Pat Sr. place a life-changingly huge bet on a football score and Pat and Tiffany's placing in a dance competition.

Silver Linings Playbook is a well-crafted, completely refreshing romantic comedy. Magnificent performances from Lawrence, Cooper and De Niro, alongside an unconventional look at love and mental illness help O. Russell's film to be one of the surprise pleasures of the year.

Rating: 3.5/5.0

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