Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Most films about mental illness take a sensational approach to the characters and disorders in question, often focusing on what's remarkable about them or their illnesses (Rain Man, anyone?). Silver Linings Playbook, on the other hand, changes this around. It looks behind the diagnoses and views its bipolar protagonists as human beings with some peculiar characteristics. The disorder itself is of minor importance at best. This angle is so refreshing, from both a filmatic and a psychological/sociological point of view, that we're off to a flying start already before director David O. Russell starts introducing his plot, disclosing that his film is really a conventional romantic comedy in disguise.
But if you're going to make a romantic comedy, which arguably is the most cliché-ridden of all film genres, this is the way to go about it. The focus should not be on the payoff and the happily-ever-after (although ultimately, it always is), but on the characters and their struggles. And the characters in Silver Linings Playbook certainly have their struggles. Not your typical Hollywoodish, plot-oriented struggles, but deep, personal issues which are remarkably accurately rendered. It's quite evident that David O. Russell, who also wrote the script, knows well what he's talking about. And I think a lot of people with bipolar disorder will enjoy watching a film which tackles this seriously, but still not without humour. I particularly felt that Pat's progress, often consisting of two steps forward and one step back, was authentic, well helped by Bradley Cooper's sensible performance. And the man is really funny too.
As the ending approaches, Silver Linings Playbook unfortunately starts going through all the motions. After having been so original up until then, creating its own little universe, I was disappointed to see that Russell couldn't find another way for his boy to get his girl than by dragging us through a number of cliches and audacious plot twists. I suppose it'll still work for those who are in the mood, but it doesn't live up to the great standards the film sets for itself during the first hour or so. Luckily, the many fine performances still do.