Silver Linings Playbook: A Film That Does the Impossible

3 Feb

It was a sunny winter Sunday when I strolled into my local theater for the matinée showing of Silver Linings Playbook, dragging my reluctant boyfriend in tow.  As we approached the ticket counter, I heard a chorus of comments including “I don’t even know what this movie is about,” and “Good, I can catch a two hour snooze.”

Ok, so we’re not all movie-goers, and expectations were low. I get it.

After settling down and debating over seats and whether or not I was willing to share the rare treat of movie theater popcorn, the show began.  The setting is a psychiatric treatment facility in Maryland.  Bradley Cooper, as the bi-polar Pat, is talking to his therapist about Sundays in his house, which always entail his father obsessively watching football, specifically the Eagles, as his mother makes “crabby snacks and homemades” and Sunday dinner. I glance over to my beau, and his eyes are still open…Well it’s only been five minutes.

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As the story unfolds, Pat leaves the facility and moves back home with his mom and dad.  We learn about his dysfunctional marriage, and how a violent outburst led him to the psychiatric facility. We find out his dad is played by Robert De Niro (AWESOME) and we meet the widowed, recovering nymphomaniac Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence).

I roll my eyes over to my right—He’s still awake, and paying attention. Hmm…

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At first Pat resists his attraction to Tiffany; he sees it as infidelity to his wife Nikki, who currently has an order of protection against him. Eventually, Pat concedes to attempt a platonic relationship with Tiffany.  Despite her own battles with mental illness, she manages to put some order on his life and disciplines him by making a deal. She’ll pass a letter on to Nikki if he trains as her dance partner for a competition.

Ok, so far we have 2 individuals battling severe mental issues, a house heavily engrossed in football culture, a dance competition, the idea that if raisin bran is ordered on a date, it is no longer considered a date and one protagonist who just won’t stop jogging because his wife wanted him to lose weight (this was before she placed a restraining order against him). In my head, this all makes perfect sense.  The balance of drama and humor throughout seems to blend these ideas together into digestible concepts for the audience.

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As the plot thickens, there are several behavioral outbursts on Pat’s part and some romantic realizations occur (I’m not giving it away, I swear). The dance competition comes and goes (as expected).  But, what I find most intriguing and, to some extent, comforting, is the fact that the film comes full circle.  It ends at the beginning, but at an improved state of the beginning.  Pat is no longer talking to a therapist about Sundays at his house; he’s participating in it with his family and friends. It ends on a sunny Sunday afternoon while the Eagles play, and all participating can bask in a new-found sense of stability.

The credits start to roll and I look over—he stayed awake the whole time.  As we walk out into our own sunny Sunday afternoon, my boyfriend admits “I liked that one. Good job.”

Of course I, too, thoroughly adored the film. Needless to say, I immediately ran to my local bookstore and picked up a paperback copy of Matthew Quick’s Silver Linings Playbook.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Don Charisma

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