I’d have a difficult time blaming one if, upon watching the trailer for Silver Linings Playbook, they predicted nothing but an archetypal end-of-the-year rom-com. David O. Russell’s directorial follow-up to 2010’s The Fighter isn’t exactly imposing ground with its still-restrained theater count. It’s a face smacking shame too, as the movie rises above so many (wider) releases.
As a character-driven force (which I’m a sucker for), it feels more like a study and less a piece with emphasis on story. Yet much like Flight and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, the key players really are the story, who come into their own, be it quick or through a barrage of encumbering roadblocks.
Bradley Cooper (Pat Solitano) and Jennifer Lawrence (Tiffany) are at the forefront of a band of–how do you say–dysfunctionalism. Bipolar disorder, depression and OCD are simply the initial troubles these people place on a very crowded table, all of which sound so easy to dismiss. But the film wastes literally no time getting us behind (or into) these people, who are so enthralling that they become oddly relatable. And so begins a journey both joyously comical and emotionally clenching, not unlike Pat’s own personality.
Mr. Russell keeps the audience on their toes, only letting up when the comedy brings you to slap your legs in breath-seizing laughter. So much is communicated between words, eye contact and body language that one could forget they’re watching a movie. Credit must be given to the directing style once again, which is only as colored as it needs to be. Shots and sequences are bestowed in a way that’s less conventional, but equally fitting (if occasionally distracting).
I hold a particular admiration for Silver Linings Playbook; not just for its characters, chemistry, emotion and realism, but for its accomplishment in audience-to-film connections. What we have here are characters who feel like people, with issues many of us might have neither full nor just grip on. And somehow we feel for these characters, as if a part of us is in them. The small bits add up in a way that’s dangerously effective; the lows get very down while the highs are properly proportionate. And sometimes, for our benefit as the audience, both arrive simultaneously. No matter what direction Russell takes us, there’s always something to savor.