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Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
The Weinstein Company/Anchor Bay
Blu-ray Disc Released: 4/30/2013
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/7/2013
When we watch dramas (as opposed to comedies, fantasy, horror or sci-fi films), we assume that we are getting a somewhat realistic portrayal of the world. Most films of this ilk set up ground-rules placing them in our reality and stick to those rules. However, there are some things in movies which often aren't portrayed accurately, especially mental illness and psychiatric treatment. Patients with a mental health issue are often portrayed as being out of control or, at worse, homicidal maniacs. Psychiatrists are shown as professionals who sit for hours doing therapy. These things couldn't be farther from the truth and very rarely do filmmakers even come close to getting it right. The Oscar nominated film Silver Linings Playbook is the latest high-caliber movie to have characters with behavioral health issues. Will it be the one to get it right?
As Silver Linings Playbook opens, Pat (Bradley Cooper) is released from a mental health facility in Baltimore, where he's been held for eight months, and allowed to return home to Philadelphia, where he'll be living with his parents, Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro) and Dolores (Jacki Weaver). (It's never explained why Pat went to a facility across state lines.) Pat was hospitalized following an incident in which he caught his wife, Nikki (Brea Bee), with another man. He's been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and is prone to episodes of excitement which can lead to rage. Pat is convinced that now that he is home, he and Nikki can get back together, despite the fact that she has a restraining order. He's decided that he will get into shape and read all of the books on her syllabus (she teaches English). In his efforts to be a better person, Pat accepts a dinner invitation from an old friend, Ronnie (John Ortiz), where he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), an unusual young woman who is a widower and is given to say whatever is on her mind. Pat is surprised when Tiffany begins shadowing him on his daily runs. But, he also sees this as an opportunity, as Tiffany can be a way to communicate with Nikki. She agrees to do this if Pat will help her with a dance project she is doing and he's amenable to this. Can these two damaged individuals bring out the best in one another?
In my professional opinion, Silver Linings Playbook misses the mark on its portrayal of mental illness. It's mentioned several times in the film that Pat is Bipolar, but his symptoms looked more like Schizoaffective Disorder to me. Given the disordered thinking, the paranoia, and the conspiracy theories, there was certainly evidence of something on the thought disorder spectrum. His manic episodes were fairly well portrayed, but the way in which they gave way to rage didn't feel genuine. Also, we never saw him go to the other end of the spectrum and become depressed. What he had bore more resemblance to Intermittent Explosive Disorder. Cooper did a good job with his mannerisms and his portrayal of someone who could not control themselves, I just don't agree with the labels which were being used. It was also interesting to note the characters who weren't officially diagnosed in the film. The movie makes no secret of the fact that Tiffany has issues, but it never wants to pin them down. She clearly carries an Axis II diagnosis, most likely Borderline Personality Disorder. I did like the fact that Pat Sr. questions Pat's therapy sessions when he himself shows signs of Aspergers Syndrome. The more subtle things like this impressed me more than the more overt attempts to showcasing mental illness.
When I first saw the trailer for Silver Linings Playbook, I didn't think that it was a real movie. I thought that it was something from Funny or Die, or another comedy outlet. The trailer started out showing two characters who were attempting to deal with mental illness and then morphed into Dancing With the Stars. The whole thing looked ludicrous. Having now seen the movie, I know that it's real, but I still don't buy the whole dancing angle. Yes, it's unique and it makes the movie stand out, but, in real life, I don't think that Pat would have had the patience or focus to do something like this. Also, patients with symptoms like Pat's typically don't like change, so entering the world of dance could have been very traumatic. (I realize that the film is sending a message of overcoming adversity, but I still don't buy it.)
Having said all that, there's no denying that there is a sweet core to Silver Linings Playbook. The accuracy of the diagnoses aside, the movie is taking a risk by making Pat the main character, and it is challenging to like him at times. However, Cooper is able to instill a sincerity and determination to the character which makes us curious as to what he is going to do next, even if watching his behavior isn't always easy to do. Even though we can tell that Pat is delusional, we still want to see him succeed. Similarly, Tiffany is a woman with deep-seeded issues which go beyond the death of her husband. She is challenging as well, and even when she is being petulant, we know that there is a person in there who simply wants to be acknowledged. These characters are surrounded by other interesting people and Writer/Director David O. Russell does a good job of balancing the drama with some much-needed humor. (Although, given Russell's body of work, I was very surprised by the film's ending.)
The great thing about reviewing Blu-ray Discs and DVDs is that I get to see a ton of movies, but the drawback is that I often see them after they've ridden a wave of hype. I have to say that I found Silver Linings Playbook to be overrated and not the end-all-be-all which some have made it out to be. The movie is an engaging drama which offers some unique characters and situations, but it's not without its flaws. The acting is solid, but I don't feel that Jennifer Lawrence gave an Oscar-winning performance, as she often turned to screaming and mugging, as opposed to genuinely emoting. While it joins the ranks of Oscar-nominated films which may be receiving too much credit, Silver Linings Playbook is certainly worth seeing, as it will put a smile on your face, but it probably won't change your life.
Silver Linings Playbook needed much more Chris Tucker on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of The Weinstein Company and Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing only trace amounts of grain and no defects from the source material. (Russell has shown in the past that he clearly doesn't mind grain in his films.) The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is very good, and we can see textures on objects. The depth is also impressive and it stands out in the many exterior scenes, as the actors are clearly separate from the background. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. For the most part, this is a quite movie, but we do get notable effects in some scenes. The football game scene provides impressive surorund sound and we can make out individual sounds. When Pat goes on his runs, there are some good stereo effects which display good separation and which alert us to things happening off-screen. The music in the film sounds fine as well, even that awful version of "Scarborough Fair".
The Silver Linings Playbook Blu-ray Disc contains a small selection of extras. The Disc offers seventeen DELETED SCENES which run about 26 minutes. These scenes raise the question, "Who edited this movie?" The majority of the scenes here are truly new, even those which are part of existing scenes from the finished film. There are some nice and humorous small moments here which would have really added to the movie. The alternate ending is simply the same ending with additional footage. "Silver Linings Playbook: The Movie That Became A Movement" (29 Minutes) is both a "making-of" and an examination of the film. Through comments from Director David O. Russell and Author Matthew Quick, we learn about the origins of the story and how it hit home for Russell. There is some on-set footage and the cast talk about their characters. In addition, we hear from Dr. Oz and other professionals who discuss how the film portrays mental illness. "Q & A Highlights" (27 minutes) offers a talk about the film from screenings which feature Russell, De Niro, Paul Herman, Producer Bruce Cohen, Cooper, Editor Jay Cassidy, and Composer Danny Elfman. (Lawrence is at the second one, but she's never featured.) "Dance Rehearsal" (82 seconds) offers behind-the-scenes footage of Cooper and Lawrence practicing. Choreographer Mandy Moore (not that one) takes us through the final dance routine in "Learn to Dance Like Pat & Tiffany" (12 minutes). "Going Steadicam with Bradley Cooper" (1 minutes) shows the actor being entrusted with a pricey piece of equipment.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.