Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell, 2012)

As a generally favorable participant in and throughout 2012’s festival circuit, the much-lauded Silver Linings Playbook is David O. Russell’s latest that focuses on one Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) as he endeavors to reconcile with his estranged wife following a stint in a mental hospital. Based on Matthew Quick’s novel of the same title, Pat’s struggle to strike a balance between his debilitating mental state and the reclamation of the life he once had becomes increasingly difficult, forming an uneasy if soon-to-be helpful friendship with the younger, recently widowed Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) in the process.

For all intents and purposes, Silver Linings Playbook is what I’d call admirably formulaic, conforming to yet periodically defying convention by simply doing what it has to do to stay true to its literary origins. Strong, inherently interesting characters give the film a certain special oomph however, the titular Pat and Tiffany especially, providing enough insight into their respective lives to aid us in developing an unspoken bond with these tortured if eccentric souls. Thematically, O. Russell can’t help but embrace the mundane as all the bits chronicling their hardships all come to one foreseeable head, ensuring us that things can either go one way or another for both of them.

In terms of pure engagement, there’s no denying that viewers will gravitate toward the film based on the aforementioned story at its core – a story that balances authentic humanistic tendencies with an overarching sense of hope for all involved and an appreciable emotional underbelly, all of which we tend to admire within any serio-comic script of this type these days. In other words, Silver Linings Playbook plays it safe, straying from anything particularly gratuitous in terms of both content and presentation.

As a whole, Silver Linings Playbook is just so-so. It’s likable on a base level, bombarding us with enough accessible snark and entertainment value to keep us invested, but its adherence to formula is ultimately its downfall. From Pat’s agreeably relatable crisis taking a detrimental toll on his life to his estranged wife and parents, viewers either will or won’t buy into the relationship with Lawrence’s Tiffany that results in something uplifting if predictably meaningful. With a latter act as embarrassingly cookie-cutter as they come, Silver Linings is assuredly a step down for O. Russell, even if I’m the sole believer in this unfortunate reality.

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