I am a tough woman to crack. When it comes to love stories in film, I am very particular and those typical chick flicks do not cut it for me. They are so glossy and fake and to be honest I feel it ruins the sanctity of love. They feel empty and so badly constructed. They have no real struggle, it's beyond predictable and it insults my intelligence. Silver Linings Playbook was the opposite of all those things. I never really do reviews on more recently released films, but this has been stuck in my brain for over a week. And if a film does that to me, then I know it's made me think, and impacted me one way or another.
So here is a quick run down of the plot. Cooper plays Pat who has Bipolar Disorder and is released from a mental health facility and will be now living with his parents, Pat Sr. and Dolores played by Robert De Niro and Jackie Weaver. Pat is convinced that he is 100% better and doesn't need medication and that his wife Nikki will take him back. Pat is invited to dinner by his old friend Ronnie and his wife Veronica. On the night of the dinner he meets Veronica's sister, Tiffany who is played by Jennifer Lawrence. This dinner doesn't go as planned, but you can already see the seeds have been planted between Pat and Tiffany. They start regularly hanging out, or should I say Tiffany tends to stalk Pat when he goes running. He finds out that Tiffany sees his wife Nikki and needs to get a letter to her, but Tiffany will only do this if Pat enters into a dancing competition with her. And since he desperately wants to get back with his wife, he enters the competition.
Seems like a basic plot right? Reading that quick synopsis you are thinking, 'that is totally a chick flick'...But it is so far from that. This film is about a man who is struggling to come to terms with his illness, how it effects him and the people around him. And while he is soul searching he finds someone who is just like him, and she just happens to accept him for who he is. You would think that this film wouldn't go into much depth with the mental health issue, but it does. It isn't in a gritty way which is supposed to hit you like a tonne of bricks. It is done subtly. When watching this, you cannot help but feel you know these people in real life, because we all know people who are either bipolar or people who have been put on anti depressants and other sorts of medication. Pat is in constant battle with himself and has no filter when it comes to his personality, but it's not a bad thing. He just needs to finally be at peace with himself and acknowledge his illness and how he can move on from the past, with someone who really understands how it feels.
Pat's relationship with his mum and dad is just beautiful. They don't always see eye to eye, and sure they get annoyed and pissed off at one another, that's natural in any family. This family isn't portrayed all happy and fake like the Brady Bunch. You see the kind of effect that Pat's illness has on his parents, and how it makes them feel, and you can see the cracks begin to show at times. But at the end of the day they love one another and they love their son, so they will do what they have to do to try and keep the peace with him, whether it's telling a couple of white lies or to give him a big fat reality check. The relationship between Pat and his dad is a strained one, and there sure is a lot of hostility towards one another. But underneath all that you have a dad who just wants to spend time with his son and reconnect with him. It is very honestly portrayed and it makes you think of times when you haven't gotten along with your parents regardless of how much you love them underneath all the arguments and disagreements. Real relationships with your family cannot be perfect, it's just impossible, because there will be times where you go through some difficult issues and some family members find it harder to deal with than others. And that's how it is when Pat's parents are trying to deal with his bipolar disorder. It is an illness they don't fully understand, but are patient with him regardless of how self centred or misguided mentally he may be, and that takes a lot of strength to be able to deal with.
The love that Pat and Tiffany share for one another is just lovely. It is one of the best portrayals of love that I have seen in recent cinema in a long time. You can tell straight away that Tiffany has feelings for Pat, because she knows that he has the missing pieces she has been searching for, for a long time. She has been through a lot in her life, and has battled with mental health issues herself, so she knows she can relate and understand Patrick better than most people. Pat doesn't realise he has fallen in love with her, because he is so wrapped up in getting back with his wife Nikki, that falling in love with Tiffany hasn't hit him like a tonne of bricks, but eventually it does. What I love about the character of Tiffany is she understands what it's like to go through a mental illness and feel completely alone and alienated from people, because it is something people just don't understand. You can tell she doesn't want Pat to feel the same as what she has, and while she does open up to him, he reacts badly towards her. He did something she hated more than anything in the world, he judged her. Pat should be the last person in the world to judge Tiffany for what she has gone through, especially when it is on the same level as him. Tiffany makes Pat understand that he doesn't need to be ashamed of his illness, because she loves him and accepts him for what he has gone through and how his past has shaped him. Love isn't about trying to be perfect for someone, or showing your partner how much you 'love' them by buying them thoughtless gifts. Love is about being accepting, not trying to change them, but to love them for their little faults, the little elements that shape them, is what counts. And seeing that conveyed in a modern day film was a surprise for me, but it was one of the most pleasant surprises I have had recently.
What I love about the set design of this film, is that it is simple. It isn't glossy or made to look gritty to give it dark tone of the film. Everywhere is very simple, whether there are scenes at Pat's house, or at the diner or even when Pat and Tiffany are out running. It looks like everyday life. There isn't over the top set design, and if there was, it would take away from the story. Everything is just done real subtly, and it's true what they say, less is more. It also gives it a realistic approach to the film, because I found at times, it didn't feel like a film, it just felt like I was watching a bunch of different conversations from people I knew.
Silver Linings Playbook is a modern day masterpiece, and I know that is a big call. But if you can have a film which tackles a very strong subject like mental health and have it performed dramatically but with a comedic edge, and still keeping it extremely realistic and not over the top, then that is worthy of that title. I know there are still a lot of people sceptical of this film, and believe me I was too. I didn't have any desire to see this film, but I am glad I tagged along with my brother and his girlfriend, because otherwise I would have missed out on a really great film. When I originally saw the trailer, I just felt it didn't sell it for me, but sometimes trailers are guilty of not being edited in a way that it could appeal to a deeper audience. The trailer looked a little shallow and vacant, but the film itself has so much depth and substance. Do yourself a favour and watch this film, let yourself be in store for a little surprise. It surprised me, and restored my faith in how love and relationships are portrayed on screen.