Thoughts on Silver Linings Playbook

Lawrence and Cooper stick the landing.

I’ll admit, the primary reason that I was looking forward to this film so much was because of Jennifer Lawrence. It’s no secret that the woman is gorgeous as well as tremendously talented. Just as we might start to believe that she might trade in those acting chops for the big budget Hollywood productions, she sneaks this one into her catalog and reminds us how great of an actress she is. She also shows us how versatile she is in being able to play such different roles in films such as this one, Winter’s Bone, X-Men: First Class and The Hunger Games.

Bradley Cooper on the other hand was a bit of an afterthought for me. I’ve liked some of the stuff he has done, but for the most part he’s played it pretty safe. It’s great to watch actor’s challenge themselves and trying new things, and as much as I went in for Lawrence, this is Cooper’s film all the way. We see everything from his perspective and the result is a mixture of angry, dark, sweet, romantic and yes, even funny.

I was very surprised to see how funny the film was and how much some of the uncomfortable humor hooked the audience from start to finish. I certainly was not expecting such a crowd-pleasing film, but that is exactly what I got. Director David O. Russell is able to walk a very thin line in his exploration of two very broken people, finding the perfect balance throughout his wonderful film.

The supporting cast which includes Robert DeNiro, Julia Stiles, Chris Tucker and other wonderful albeit smaller names, are all at the top of their games, but for me the film was all about Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. Everything from their meet cute to their surprising honesty and courtship was a delight to watch. As we were filled in with details from their pasts, suddenly some of the things that were happening in the film made so much sense. Let’s get a bit of information on the two characters before we fully explore some of the more complicated and (for me) relatable themes.

Bradley Cooper has just been released from a mental institution at the beginning of the film. He was placed there after nearly killing a man who his wife was cheating with. Cooper wanders home one day to catch the two in the shower, and when all the man has to say is, “You should probably go,” I can’t help but support what Cooper does next.

Jennifer Lawrence also wears the wedding ring, but her situation is a bit different as she is a widow. We instantly find out that she is just as out-spoken and even perhaps crazier than Cooper’s character. She is also very promiscuous although it seems she uses sex as a way to deal with her husband’s death. The two meet and instantly they have a spark. You feel their physical attraction, and yes it helps that the two are very attractive people.

I related to Cooper’s delusion of, “If I get my things together, and get in amazing shape, then my wife will take me back.” Throughout the film, Cooper is convinced that his marriage will be fixed and everything will be better than it ever was. He may be attracted to Lawrence but he certainly will not do anything to mess things up with his wife, even if the marriage is over in everything except the title. He is either so oblivious to this or just doesn’t want to see it. He has met a wonderful, firecracker of a woman and yet he does not want to fully explore how great that relationship could be since he is a loyal husband and believes that his marriage is something that could still be saved.

Lawrence proposes sex to Cooper on the first night and while it is a bit shocking, it is only a while later at their dinner date that we find out how promiscuous she has really been as she admits to him that she has slept with eleven people at her old job. It becomes quite obvious that she is using sex as a way to fill a void in her life all the while it is making her feel that much more empty and used. We learn that in the last months of her husband’s life, they weren’t really having sex. She was going through her issues and wasn’t really feeling it so as a way to spice things up in their relationship, her husband decided to buy her some stuff from Victoria’s Secret and on his way home he was hit by a car and died.

It’s a pretty messed up story and yet it clarifies things as to why she decided to act out and sleep with so many people following his death. None of those relationships are real however, and as she puts it, “She is just giving people what they want,” and not really getting anything in return. I loved how these two crazy, deranged and messed up individuals are able to help each other so much. I also love how we see that they aren’t the only crazy people in town as the supporting characters also have their own problems and self-destructive behavior.

There is a restraining order on Cooper preventing him from seeing his ex-wife so Lawrence promises to deliver a letter from Cooper to his wife Nikki if Cooper helps her out with a dance contest. I loved the idea of the dance contest, mainly because it allows us to see the smoking hot chemistry between the two on a whole different level. Needless to say, Cooper and Lawrence are both in fantastic shape so the director and story decides to take full advantage of that and we see plenty of scenes of the two practicing for the dance competition as well as running all over the city, which I am always a big fan of.

The ending would of course come down to the big dance competition, but for me I loved how it was also about the smaller victories. The two were never positioned to win the competition so it was never about that, in many ways it was a victory in itself that the two even made it to the dance floor. Cooper finds out that it was Lawrence herself who wrote him the letter, pretending to be his wife. Instead of blowing up and making a huge deal about it, Cooper plays it cool and has his plan set in motion for the night of the competition.

As with any great movie, I’m always curious as to how it will end and if the director can stick the landing. For a while I was fearing that Lawrence would do something really stupid once she sees that Cooper’s wife actually shows up to the competition. I was really happy when that did not happen and the most she did was just have two drinks. Being able to relate to Cooper a bit with the whole wife scenario and holding on for too long, it was a bit of an extra treat for me to see that his wife showed up and was able to see how great he was now doing. I loved that he whispered into her ear, and that, Lost in Translation style, we heard no dialogue.

What we do know for sure is that he is in such a better place now and was finally able to let go of the past. He presumably says thank you and goodbye to his wife and chases the woman he loved at first sight, his words not mine. It was a great moment and a great ending as Cooper catches up to a visibly shaken Lawrence and hands her a letter declaring his love for her. The moment was earned and it was something that both of them deserved. Sure, things won’t always be perfect for the two, but they are perfect for each other.

As you can tell, I really got into this movie and felt so close to the characters in it. I don’t know what it says about me that I was able to so deeply relate to such troubled characters, but thinking about the movie again and again, I’m fine with it. This is the reason that I love movies, and movies like this just make me happy to be alive.


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