UGH. This is what I get for trusting people. I feel like I saw a different movie than the friends who glowingly recommended Silver Linings Playbook—the movie I saw featured some strong performances and an interesting take on one bipolar man's decision To Medicate or Not to Medicate, but unlike our reviewer, I thought the love story fell completely flat.
Spoiler-free complaining after the jump.
Silver Linings stars Bradley Cooper as a bipolar man released into his parents' custody after he's institutionalized for nearly beating his wife's lover to death; just out of the hospital and off his meds, a manic episode manifests as a frenzied campaign to get his wife back, despite the pesky restraining order standing in his way. Then a gothed-out Jennifer Lawrence trots by, boasting some vaguely explained mental health issues of her own, aaaaand... cue thick-skulled romantic comedy that telegraphs its plot points well in advance and punts character development entirely into the realm of the chemical.
I'm not gonna deny that David O. Russell's new film has some strengths. The acting is great: Bradley Cooper's face is less punchable than usual, Jennifer Lawrence brings impressive depth to her lazily written angry-sad girl character, and Robert DeNiro does an uncanny impression of my football-loving Uncle Ed. (DeNiro's character is a Philadelphia Eagles superfan, and it's strongly suggested that his superstitious rituals about his team are symptomatic of underlying mental health issues of his own. I liked this part of the movie a lot—it brings up the good point that behaviors that would now merit psychiatric attention were, a few generations ago, cast as quirks or personality flaws. Raise your hand if your family's got a few of those.) There's also something interesting and true about the film's portrayal of parents trying to adapt to their kid's poorly managed mental health problems. But as with The Fighter, the best parts of the movie are not what the movie is actually about. The stakes get WAY too high at the film's end, and the good stuff is ultimately steamrolled by the demands of a boring, conventional plot.
ADDITIONAL GRIPES THAT ARE KINDA SPOILERY:
-Why does Bradley Cooper have his own personal policeman?
-Shouldn't "My Cherie Amour" be a trigger for the man who was almost beaten to death while it was playing, rather than the man who did the beating?
-I love Julia Stiles. That's not really a gripe.
-It was really nice of Bradley Cooper and his big strong white friends to defend the group of Indians at the tailgate party that happened to include his psychiatrist. What a coincidence that was! Good thing those defenseless old Indian dudes had a Bradley Cooper looking out for them!
-There is straight-up NO WAY the scoring shook out the way it did at the climactic dance scene. No way. Nuh uh.