When an actor auditions for something and loses the role, they learn to put the experience behind them and move on. Otherwise, they would not last long in a business where the average is one job out of ten auditions. However, when the role is in a movie that turns out to be brilliant and is nominated for awards, it is harder to forget that you could have been part of all that. This is MY situation with Silver Linings Playbook.
The movie really has two purposes: 1) to share the unusual (to say the least)relationship between two people struggling to control their own mental illnesses;and 2) to give a great big juicy wet kiss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
The studly Bradley Cooper (who is fantastic but unfortunately keeps his shirt on the whole film) plays Pat, the younger son in a family of Philadelphia natives, who has bipolar disorder and rage issues. He starts the film just getting out of 8 months in a psychiatric hospital in Baltimore (because Philly doesn’t have any?), court ordered as a plea bargain for beating almost to death the man he caught in the shower with his wife. His mom (played beautifully by Jacki Weaver)has decided it’s long enough and gets the permission of the court to take him out. That this is premature is clear immediately, as he still believes he will get back with his wife, who has a 500 ft. away restraining order, if he just gets in shape (she thought he was fat) and gets his part-time teaching job back – at the school where she AND her lover still work and where they are all terrified of him. His cry, learned in the hospital, is “Excelsior”, and he attempts to convince his friends and family that you can find a silver lining in everything – an attitude he unfortunately can’t maintain in the real world and without his meds.
In an attempt to appear “normal”, Pat accepts a dinner invitation to the house of his friend, Ronnie (John Ortiz), knowing that even though Ronnie’s ball-breaking wife, Veronica (Julia Stiles in a role not worthy of her talent) is behind the invitation, she hates him. Well, it’s a setup, so that Pat can meet Veronica’s “crazy” sister, Tiffany (performed to perfection by Jennifer Lawrence), a widow who blames herself for her husband’sdeath. She not surprisingly got emotionally out of control and slept with everyone at her office to deal with her pain – and then got fired. The dinner goes predictably awry, especially since neither Pat nor Tiffany have any verbal filters in place, but they bond over what the various medications they have tried do to them. She gets Pat to walk her home, and despite her recent vow to act like less of a slut, she also says he can come back to the home she has made out of the garage behind her parent’s house and, well, you get the idea. Fortunately for both of them, especially since they both are still in love with their spouses, he refuses.
But what ensues, as she starts following him every time he runs (with a trash can bag over him to burn fat) is an exceptionally well-written and acted pas de deux), leading them both to a place of control and hope. While their participation in a ballroom dance competition happens as sort of blackmail on Tiffany’s part, it leads to moments large and small (including his hospital friend, Dan – NOT overplayed by Chris Tucker - giving them some “black” choreography) that are what builds a mature relationship.
The secondary plot revolves around his father, Pat Sr. (played with his usual acting brilliance by Robert DeNiro), and his almost maniacal devotion to the Eagles. This includes any number of game day superstitions which includes multiple remotes in exact alignment, an Eagles handkerchief folded just so, and especially Pat watching the game with him, as he believes Pat watching games was vital to an Eagles win. Oh, and at one point, Dan even sat in for Pat, since to Pat Sr. a friend of Pat’s had the same juju. Pat Sr. is not even allowed into Lincoln Financial Stadium because he beat up so many people – and in Philly, that’s hard to do. The game is also the only way he knows to bond with his sons, or that the brothers have to bond with each other, so it deserves to be practically a character.
And the role I didn’t get? They definitely “went another way”, as she was short and blonde. But I still wish I could have shared a pretend Christmas drink with Robert DeNiro!