The best comedies go for truths, not laughs. And, although “Silver Linings Playbook” is billed as a comedy, it is more a romance between two young adults with bipolar disorder whose families and friends have to deal with the turmoil that mental illness creates.
David O. Russell, the director of this blockbuster multiple Academy Award winner, wrote the screenplay partly as an acknowledgement of his son’s bipolar disorder and as a message about this form of mental illness. Russell has delivered two sympathetic characters to raise our awareness. In this way, “Silver Linings Playbook” is more than a very likable movie with two amazing dramatic performances. Rather it is a journey of a young 30-something man, Patrick Solatano (played by Bradley Cooper) and a young 20-something woman, Tiffany Maxwell (the Oscar-winning performance by Jennifer Lawrence of “A Winter’s Bone” and “Hunger Games“) who both suffer from bipolar disorder.
In the opening scene Pat is released from a mental institution after eight-months of therapy. Slowly and painfully he tries to integrate back into his Philadelphia neighborhood, living with his parents (Robert de Niro and Jacki Weaver perfectly partnered for the family dynamics). Pat and everyone who loves him–friends and family–are determined not to let his condition break them apart. Then the beautiful and promiscuous Tiffany enters his life. The core of the story is the healing of these two wounded people.
This film is nevertheless buoyant and touching, not depressing, and the essence and heart of the drama is not a comedy but a romance. There are some exceptionally funny scenes, which do not go after the cheap cringe-inducing laugh. The art of “Silver Linings Playbook” is in the balancing act between the bipolar patient who believes he or she doesn’t need medication and the hope that survival in the world of family and friends is still possible. Moreover, Bradley Cooper gives the performance of his career playing against type. (His claim to fame previously has been for the “Hangover” man-child films.) There is no miraculous cure for bipolar disorder. It permanently clouds the mind. But there is a silver lining and that is what makes this movie a charming romantic narrative. No matter what your personal experience may be with bipolar disorder, you will find “Silver Linings Playbook” an entertaining and tenderhearted movie.