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When the dark is at its worst,
Some people may despair,
But some, refusing to be cursed,
See silver linings there.

Those linings may be hard to hold,
But promise they contain,
And when life’s strains are uncontrolled,
Think not they are in vain.

In bearing aches of head and heart,
Nobody is alone,
And silver linings may impart
New chances never known.

Rating: R

What do you get when you combine a talented writer/director with a uniformly Oscar-worthy cast of actors? Most of the time, you get a hit, and most of the time, that’s what David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook is. As the first film since Reds to earn all four acting nominations at the Academy Awards, it features four excellent actors who know what they’re doing, even if it’s more the stuff of Oscar nominations rather than wins, though Jennifer Lawrence still won Best Actress.

This is the kind of romantic comedy that makes you feel better about yourself, because at least your life (hopefully) isn’t as messed-up as these people’s. Bipolar Pat Solitano, Jr. (Bradley Cooper), is lucky to have two loving and understanding parents like Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver, who allow him to stay with them after his release from a psychiatric hospital. While he hopes to pick up with his wife, whose cheating caused his initial mental breakdown, he meets grieving widow Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who’s also lucky to have two loving and understanding parents. At first glance, they might seem perfect for each other, two mentally unstable people who might be able to support each other, but between Pat’s obsession with his unfaithful wife and their tendency to pity the other, things are as complicated as real life or more so. (I admire Pat’s commitment to his wife, but it’s one-sided and delusional.) Throw in a dance competition, financial risks, and a Stevie Wonder phobia, and who knows if new love may bloom?

The relatable drama balances the headaches of mental illness with comedic touches that seem like ideas drawn from real life rather than spawned in a writer’s head. I’ve personally felt Pat’s dissatisfaction with an unhappy ending, though I wouldn’t go as far as he does, except in the blogosphere. While not everyone approved of the depiction of mental illness, the Oscar-nominated screenplay by Russell fosters this sense of realism in being unafraid to allow the “sloppy and dirty,” imperfections and natural flaws in both the characters and their actions. Nothing is idealized, not even the climactic dance number, but it’s all good enough to be satisfying and win over an audience.

My one complaint would have to be the crudity of the language. I know it doesn’t bother most people, but why must F-bombs be thrown around so casually in “great” movies? I’m not one to condemn a film only for foul language, but it just seems so unnecessary, making it less watchable for those sensitive to it. Robert De Niro, in particular, has an upset scene in which every other word begins with F. I suppose that’s realistic too, and I know this film is far from the worst offender, but without the language, you’d still have the outstanding performances and direction and miss nothing. Maybe it’s just me….

Nevertheless, Silver Linings Playbook is one of the better modern romantic dramedies, urging everyone to find their silver lining and illustrating love as a complex mix of empathy, madness, chance, and bribery. And it makes me want to try some “crabby snacks and homemades.”

Best line: (Tiffany) “You let me lie to you for a week?”   (Pat) “I was trying to be romantic.”

Rank: List Runner-Up
© 2015 S. G. Liput
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