2012’s breakout hit from nowhere appears to be Silver Linings Playbook, starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert DeNiro.
People are praising the charming cast, clever script, and mixture of comedy and drama. I, however, am not. There are plenty of similar movies that do what Silver Linings Playbook does, but far far better. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Little Miss Sunshine, Juno. All featured an ensemble type cast. All featured a serious storyline. All also simultaneously featured dark humor. Well, maybe Juno‘s humor wasn’t so dark, but the point still remains. Silver Linings Playbook simply can’t measure up.
Former teacher Pat Solitano (Cooper) has been just released after an eight month stay in a Baltimore mental health facility. There’s only one thing on his mind: getting back with his wife Nikki. It’s just too bad that his wife cheated on him with another teacher, an act Pat stumbled in on and beat the living daylights out of the other man. In response, Nikki moved and filed a restraining order. His father, Pat Sr. (DeNiro), is out of work and has plans for a restaurant. It’s just a shame Pat Sr. appears to have an addiction to gambling. Regardless of if he actually does or not, this is how it’s portrayed on screen. Pat Sr.’s headstrong demands that Pat Jr. watches the Eagles game simply because it’s good luck and not to bond with family comes off as desperate not depressing. Combined with the fact that Pat Jr. has an equally headstrong demand to find Nikki, despite the pleas of his family, and you have two unlikable characters. Don’t get me wrong, Cooper does a great job letting us know his characters goal, but it’s a goal I can’t get behind.
While attending a dinner with friends, Pat Jr. meets Tiffany Maxwell (Lawrence), a woman with mental problems to rival his own. Her husband was recently killed and her method of grieving was to, pardon my french, become a hussy. At first, the two begin this weird romance, but while Tiffany is itching to jump all over Pat’s body, he is too busy using her to get back with Nikki. There’s no real motive for Tiffany to hang around Pat. Maybe she can relate to him. Maybe she legitimately wants to help him. Or perhaps she’s using him for an upcoming dance competition she can’t do without her dead husband. Once again, this is a character I can’t get fully behind.
The movie moves from frustrating to disappointing after a really enjoyable climactic scene, one which immediately reminded me of Little Miss Sunshine. If you’ve already seen both movies, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Yet no matter how strong the movie’s last moments area, despite the confusion they may cause, the poor buildup resulted in a final act I couldn’t fully invest in. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Juno, and Little Miss Sunshine all work because we can get behind the characters. While Clementine, in Eternal Sunshine may be absolutely insane, we can still relate to Joel. We root for Olive in Little Miss Sunshine. We feel for all the characters in Juno. That connection with the characters seen in Silver Linings Playbook simply wasn’t there for me. Had it been, I would have easily recommended the film. But it wasn’t.