With his previous effort receiving Oscar recognition, it looks like with The Fighter that O'Russell could now leave that incident behind. So, it's with some irony that his latest effort sees a man struggle to show that an incident in his past is just that and needs to be classed as such and everyone should just move on...
Mental health issues. Its portrayal can be sketchy at best upon both the small and big screen. Classics such as One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest tackle it head on very successfully. Others touch on it but wrap it up in a storyline that is easier to swallow such as As Good As It Gets. Others try for all out comedy and run the risk of belittling not only the character but their illness at the same time - What About Bob? Silver Linings Playbook sees itself fall between the first two categories, and it owes this creative success and high praise from the performances of Cooper and Lawrence. Yes, they may have some solid writing to base their performances on, but in the end, if their characters don't hook you somehow then they've lost.
Cooper, yes he from The Hangover and The A-Team, right from the get-go, as he sits in his shrink's office desperately trying to reason with himself and the doctor about his actions, is a man who asks for and needs your attention and your empathy. As the movie unfolds you become privy to the "incident" that caused his stint in the hospital and it is this somewhat shockingly graphic reveal that shows just how strong your connection with Cooper's bi-polar teacher is as, rather than wanting to cut the ties with him, you would rather just want to ride it through to the end with him no matter what. He deserves his "silver lining" and you want him to have it. The books he reads to try to connect with his estranged wife that have no "happy endings" should not be for him.
Of course though, his "happy ending" should not be with his wife but with Lawrence's equally mis-understood and singled out individual that offers Cooper's still love-struck husband a way back into his wife's life. Here, the young woman that blew away the small-but-lucky audience that saw her debut in Winter's Bone and showed that a strong female lead CAN bring in both male and female crowds with her The Hunger Games, shows that these previous performances were not flukes. Lawrence as the recently widowed young woman who reaches out for comfort and solace in sex also has an uncomfortable scene not unlike Cooper's where her disorder causes trouble for him but her face brilliantly shows her struggles with what she's done and what she should do, without her uttering a word. It's this kind of thing that smooths over the obvious age gap between them and has you instead just concentrate on their words and actions rather than their years.
What it manages to do is make you accept the characters because of their flaws and their incidents but not only accept them, but embrace them too. Through such moments as exactly who started the hand-holding - both believe it to be the other - and the who-is-stalking-who through jogging around the neighbourhood, both Cooper's bi-polar Pat and Lawrence's clinically depressed Tiffany create a couple that most average rom-con's would die for - a believable, grounded and "fingers crossed they make it" duo.
Like the best rom-com's (don't be confused though, this is more than a rom-com) it's not just the central characters that help events unfold or win you over. Here, some recognisable individuals step up to the spotlight and, for some of them, banish their recent "phone it in" performances - yes Mr DeNiro, you! The supporting cast help to make it feel like that you're watching friends and family trying to deal with the problems that mental health issues can cause rather than some extras wandering into the camera shot. And for those who still have hearing problems from The Fifth Element and the Rush Hour films, Tucker will be a complete surprise not unlike Cooper.
Silver Linings Playbook does concern itself with a sport - here its American Football - but just like Field Of Dreams, the sport is not important. It's something that the father (DeNiro) and the son (Cooper) can try to bridge the ever-widening gap between themselves but doesn't need you to understand the in's-and-out's of to get it all. Then throw in a dance competition that refuses to go all Hollywood and cheesy and you have a film that never dumbs down itself to bring itself into your good books - and for that it should be seen. Wonderful.
UK release date: 23.11.12