Silver Linings Playbook, directed by David O. Russell, is nominated for eight Academy Awards. In lieu of the Oscars airing this Sunday, prediction fever is at height. Though a box office hit, there are more than a few reasons why Silver Linings Playbook won't win big — or win in any category at all.
Silver Linings Playbook is a comedy-drama that revolves around mental illness, family, friends, love, and overcoming adversity. An adaptation from the novel of the same name by Matthew Quick follows Pat (played by Bradley Cooper), who leaves a mental health facility to live with his parents after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The incident that triggered his stay was catching his wife in the act of cheating with their wedding song, “My Cherie Amour,” playing in the background. Pat literally snaps and beats the male culprit within an inch of his life.
Fast-forward back to his release: Pat is obligated to take medication to control his condition, sees a therapist, and believes he can win the affections of his wife back despite her having placed a restraining order on him.
Pat then meets Tiffany (portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence), who recently lost her husband and harbors a few demons of her own (noticeably, her penchant towards nymphomania). Despite their ups and downs, they find comfort and ultimately romance in one another. There is also a dance competition and football — something any Eagles fan could connect with instantly.
I hadn’t heard of Silver Linings Playbook until the nominees lists came out in early January — and I am a person who is usually aware of what’s going on. It wasn’t until the end of January, on a vacation to Lake Placid in upstate New York, that I was able to watch and judge the movie myself. At Lake Placid sits the old Palace Theater on Main Street where movies are seven dollars and they don’t take credit or debit cards. Out of our group of three for the evening, my best friend, her father, and myself, my friend was the only person who had seen the movie previously. She insisted I would love it and I thought that I would love it too. It was nominated for Oscars and receiving good press in the headlines and also featured Hollywood's new It Girl, Jennifer Lawrence.
I expected something meaningful in the story line, performance, and production, but I came out of the theater wondering how in the world Silver Linings Playbook got nominated for Best Picture. As I thought this over, one answer came in the form of a professional interpretation from my friend’s father. He is a therapist and praised the movie for its truthful handling of mental disorders — something Hollywood does not have a good track record with.
Its praise I can agree with but once you remove that element from the story, Silver Lining Playbook dwindles down to nothing more than your typical feel-good rom-com with a happy ending. It’s a formula seen time and time again without any outstanding deviations. Against contenders such as Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, and predicted winner Argo, Silver Linings Playbook falls behind the pack in terms of bringing original and memorable quality to the table.
The same criticism follows for its nominated categories for Achievement in Directing (Amour, Lincoln), Performance by an Actor in a Lead Role (Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln), Performance by an Actress in a Lead role (Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty), Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables), Adapted Screenplay (Argo, Life of Pi, Lincoln), and Achievement in Film Editing (Argo, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty). Notice the one category I left out was Performance by an Actor in A Supporting Role.
Robert De Niro as Pat Sr., Pat’s father, is the one performance in the entire movie that has been rightly nominated. Out of the entire cast, it was his character, a passionate Philly Eagles fan in need of stabilizing his family upon his son's return and attempting to jump-start a bookmarking business while battling OCD, that I found most compelling. His superstitious ways plunge his entire family into a risky bet that depends upon the success of Pat and Tiffany’s entry in the dance competition as well as an Eagles victory against the Cowboys in a football match. But despite De Niro’s endearing and emotive performance, he still has to duke it out against the likes of Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained and Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln, which leaves me highly skeptical for a win. Then again, this is the Oscars — enigmatic and unpredictable at best, home to Leonardo DiCaprio snubs.
But if there is one thing for certain, it’s that I fail to see what the prestigious Academy sees in Silver Linings Playbook overall. Don’t get me wrong — I did like the movie for what it was, but there is very little that screams Oscars-worthy otherwise.