NATALIE STENDALL FILM REVIEW: Playbook is incredibly enjoyable

Silver Linings Playbook has swept up awards around the US film festival circuit this year and is already tipped for Oscar success.

Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) returns to his parent’s home after a stint in a mental institution. Still struggling with bipolar disorder, Pat desperately wants to get back together with his wife Nikki who has a restraining order against him. When Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a young widow with her issues of her own, Pat sees a way of getting closer to his wife and a surprising relationship evolves.

Silver Linings Playbook sees the return of director David O. Russell following his 2010 Oscar nominated film, The Fighter. Adapted by Russell from Matthew Quick’s novel, Silver Linings Playbook is a movie that treads the line between mainstream romantic comedy and something more artistic.

Based around the unusual chemistry between Pat and Tiffany, Silver Linings Playbook benefits from a clever script with superb characterisation. Initially bonding over their experience of medication, Pat and Tiffany’s relationship is fraught with tensions. Russell carefully pays attention to the dynamics of their squabbles, allowing his audience to observe the simmering irritations that lead to very public arguments. Both characters are afflicted by a lack of tact, something that brings a startling honesty to their interactions and an unconventional dynamic.

Lawrence gives an outstanding performance as Tiffany who embraces her ‘crazy’, learning to love the parts of herself that others find difficult to understand. Lawrence’s range as an actress is showcased in Silver Linings Playbook. From frustration and fierce temper - displayed in an exceptional clash at the local diner - to confusion and grief, Lawrence’s performance is powerful and moving.

In contrast to Tiffany, Pat reaches for his new life with gusto, eager to prove he is now ‘ok’. His bold and forthright enthusiasm baffles those around him as he fixates on his mission to reunite with Nikki. Bradley Cooper brings a wide-eyed energy and quick-wittedness that makes Pat’s relentless positivity believable and sympathetic. Cooper’s performance in Silver Linings Playbook is potentially career making, taking him a different direction to the loud and ribald Hangover series for which he is perhaps most famous.

Silver Linings Playbook plays heavily on neuroses and all of the film’s characters are complicated and flawed. Robert De Niro puts in a superb supporting performance as Pat’s father, whose obsessive routines dominate football Sundays and whose behaviour at games has led to a ban from the stadium. At the very heart of Silver Linings Playbook lies the beautiful complexities that can be found in people.

Silver Linings Playbook is very much a film for this age. Its emphasis upon the detrimental effects of negativity - ‘it is a poison like nothing else’ - is apt for modern times and the film plays out as an assault on pessimism. Despite its sometimes dark subject matter, Silver Linings Playbook maintains a sentimentality and feel good vibe that makes it appealing and uplifting. The film’s greatest achievement is its intelligent balance between the cruel life experiences of its characters and the lightness of comedy. Only in it’s final act does Silver Linings Playbook begin to lose control of this careful blend, in its wholehearted acceptance of a more familiar romantic comedy formula.

Silver Linings Playbook is incredibly enjoyable with mesmeric performances from Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro. Straddling romantic comedy and drama is notoriously tricky and Silver Linings Playbook makes a valiant effort, let down only by a weaker final act that plays too heavily into audience expectations of the genre.

Certificate: 15

Running Time: 122 minutes

Verdict: 4/5