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Review – The Silver Linings Playbook

With Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker. Written and directed by David O. Russell. Rated R for language and some sexual content/nudity. 122 minutes.

Every so often some horrendous film appears that, inexplicably, gets good reviews in some quarters. This season’s “critic’s darling” is an absolutely appalling excuse for a romantic comedy called THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK. Run, don’t walk, as far as you can from this toxic mess.

Pat (Bradley Cooper) has just been sprung from a mental institution after several months. He went out-of-control when he found out that his wife was cheating on him and he was subsequently institutionalized as part of a plea bargain. Now he’s home with his parents (Robert De Niro continuing his downward spiral into irrelevancy, Jacki Weaver) trying to put his life back together. Well, not quite, as he still believes he can straighten things out with the ex-wife.

Meanwhile, he gets involved with a young woman named Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) who has her own issues as she gets over the death of her husband. Yes, this is a romance between two people with mental problems and we’re supposed to find that endearing because, after all, you know how much fun schizophrenia can be. There’s absolutely no reason to be rooting for this couple to succeed except that’s what writer/director David O. Russell wants us to do. So when Tiffany promises to help Pat get back with the ex-wife if he’ll partner with her in a dance contest, we’re to take this as a positive thing.

In fact it’s not just the two leads who have issues. Pat Sr. (De Niro) is an obsessive Philadelphia Eagles fan who has all sorts of rituals and superstitions he expects Pat Jr. to follow if the team is to win. Russell seems to think this amusing. Viewers may wonder why Pat Sr. isn’t being locked up as a danger to himself and to others.

There are many movies that treat mental illness seriously and others that treat it metaphorically. The ones that cross over into the offensive are those that take the attitude, “Crazy people – they’re fun to watch, huh?” Pat and Tiffany are broken people who need help and who, with that help, can lead happy and fulfilling lives. Unfortunately, the movie treats this as a joke, with the added notion that the so-called “normal” people are no better.

By film’s end we’re supposed to be happy for the couple dancing together and to think that Pat’s family is amusingly eccentric. Instead one feels as if one has spent two hours in which the inmates have taken over the asylum. Rather than making us sympathetic the movie leaves us sorry we’ve encountered any of these pathetic and self-absorbed poor souls in the first place.

In spite of some good buzz out of the film festival circuit and rave reviews, “The Silver Linings Playbook” seems to be having trouble attracting viewers. There’s a reason for that. This is a terrible film and one of the most overrated movies of the year. With a truly awkward script and no chemistry between the leads – plus Robert De Niro continuing his campaign to make us forget we ever thought he was one of the greatest actors of his generation – this Thanksgiving arrival is a turkey.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 1 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His first novel, Shh! It’s A Secret: A Novel About Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide will be released in January 2013. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.


About Daniel M. Kimmel

Film critic, author, lecturer.

15 responses »

  1. Mr. Kimmel,
    You state: “In spite of some good buzz out of the film festival circuit and rave reviews, ‘The Silver Linings Playbook’ seems to be having trouble attracting viewers.” You are intelligent enough to know that statement is incredibly misleading, an unfair and illogical slap that puts the rest of your review to the lie.
    SLP is a small independent film, like The Artist and King’s Speech, which the Weinstein Company is rolling out slowly to build audience recognition and strong word of mouth. Seems well on its way because Rotten Tomatoes has the critics 90% positive, audiences 87% positive.

    • Daniel M. Kimmel

      I’m going by published reports that the Weinsteins have scaled back their roll out, not by the grosses. So, I’m being factual, not at all misleading.

  2. She’s getting over the death of her husband, not brother.

  3. “plus Robert De Niro continuing his campaign to make us forget we ever though he was one of the greatest actors of his generation…”

    OMG this is the most snarkiest and funniest reviews I’ve ever read. I kind of enjoyed the film and Jennifer Lawrence was awesome.

    • Daniel M. Kimmel

      I found it unwatchable but I have to admit that what little merit it had came from Lawrence. She’s clearly a talent to watch.

  4. I thought it was pretty good, but it really wasn’t a romantic comedy. It was a look at different people’s views of reality. In many ways , the father was less in touch with reality than his son was.

  5. None of the reviews for this movie address the fact that Bradley Cooper has very little range as an actor. In the vernacular- he’s shallow. I guess he’s eye candy for those who spend $15 to go to the movies for that reason.

  6. Just saw the movie and it took every ounce of energy not to walk out. I absolutely hated it. Lawrence has no emotional range. It’s like she takes director’s cues for what she’s supposed to feel rather than just feel it. Technically she’s good but I feel nothing when I watch her (and I’ve seen three of her movies now.) It’s sad that Hollywood won’t make a movie that really touches on the intricacies of mental illness. So, the stigma will continue if they keep making dreck like this.

    • Daniel M. Kimmel

      There are movies that deal with mental illness seriously, but this wasn’t one of them. A fascinating book, if you’re interested, is “Psychiatry and the Cinema” written by two brothers, one a psychiatrist and the other a film professor. Highly readable and incredibly insightful.

  7. The Guy Behind The Guy

    Well said. Besides all the unlikable crazy people and the weak dance subplot I kind of lost interest about the time after the Eagles parking lot fight when the doctor came back to their house but no one said Pat didn’t start the fight and then the stupid bet that made no sense.

  8. Thank you for one of the only accurate reviews of this film out there. The book, incidentally, is great.

  9. This review was dead on. The script was LOUSY, the father’s quirks unfunny, everything felt forced, Cooper looked like he was trying to win an Oscar (and his portrayal was mediocre) . . . there is too much wrong with this film to even BEGIN to describe it. De Niro saddens me, oddly; I worshipped him after “The Godfather” and “Taxi Driver” and “Goodfellas.” There was no point in casting him in this movie; he adds nothing. WHY do movies like this get rave reviews?

  10. Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh. I just saw this movie on cable. Criminey’s sake, what a stinker. Having Grown up in a family of nutjobs I can say that it’s not funny. Mentally ill people are not funny. The whole idea that a bipolar woman who has a public meltdown on the first date, trashes the table ware, slaps Pat across the face and screams at him is going to somehow be transformed into an ideal mate? Sorry, but that happens…never. This is her, on the first date!! Imagine once the honeymoon period of dating is over and she resumes her abuse. It happens in real life all the time. This is why people end up wanting to get the hell away from women like this. Don’t stick your d**k in crazy.

    And Pat is a stalker who has a restraining order put in him. Obsessive stalking does not just magically dissipate when “the right person comes along.” As if Tiffany could ever be that. This is a silly “happy, happy, joy joy” fantasy that lazy romantic writers lapse into. The implausibility and wishful thinking of the whole enterprise was a real turn off. It sucked.

  11. I totally agree with your review. There is no way a comedy can treat a serious subject like mental illness, unless it becomes a joke. Your review already focuses on the movie’s faults, so I won’t add much.

    Everything is fake about this movie, and a sex bomb like Jennifer Lawrence is completely miscast. One of the most implausible scenes is the one where Pat and Tiffany rehearse for the dance contest; the director indulges on Tiffany’s behind, and we are made to believe that a healthy (at least, phisically), young male would be insensitive to that? Please!!


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