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Saturday, 29 December 2012

Films - Silver Linings Playbook - directed by David O Russell

Star rating - 8/10

I'm not usually a lover of rom-coms, but just tell me when you last saw a film of this genre mix romance with serious mental health issues? Never, I am prepared to wager. Silver Linings Playbook does just that - serious, touching, and very funny - it is a real gem of a film from director David O Russell.

The unfeasibly handsome Bradley Cooper plays Pat, who is just being released from eight months' detention in a mental hospital, complete with bi-polar diagnosis and restraining order. This is to protect his wife from his previously violent behaviour towards her lover after he found them together in the shower. And all he wants is to show her that he is better, and to rekindle their marriage. Which is obviously going to be trickier than he imagines.

And the bosom of the family he returns to is far from harmonious - with Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver giving their usual excellent performances as his kooky parents. His father also has violent tendencies, unable to attend his beloved Philadelphia Eagles football team's home matches due to previous bad behaviour. So it's easy to see where Pat has inherited at least some of his temper from. The exchanges between father and son are both hilarious and very touching, with football serving as the emotional connection between them.

But the central relationship of the film develops between Pat and Tiffany, the beautiful but needy sister of his friend's wife, played with brilliance by Jennifer Lawrence. She is suffering from her own demons, partly following the death of her husband, but with underlying mental health issues to more than rival those of Pat. Lawrence simply lights up the screen, just as she did in Winter's Bone. He sees her as a desperate way to get an illicit, not to mention illegal, letter to his wife. She sees him as a way to get a partner for a dance competition she wants to enter as therapy for her emptiness. 

This is a delightful film with a serious message. It could be criticised for over simplifying the problems relating to bi-polar disorder in its happy ever after ending. But it cannot be criticised for bringing joy and comedy to the situation, and for bravely setting the action well outside the usual Hollywood comfort zone. A lovely film with powerful central and supporting performances which will surely feature come the fast approaching Oscar season.

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