Silver Linings Playbook

Bradley Cooper is no stranger to the finer things in life: he’s fluent in French, has an honors degree in English from Georgetown under his belt, and has been relishing in the fact that he’s everyone’s favorite brand of eye candy. Then again, he’s been in accolade-accruing comedy films like The Hangover and Wedding Crashers, which exhibit his fun-loving side. When Silver Lining Playbook showcases him chucking a library copy of an Ernest Hemingway novel out his parents’ attic window, it could be concluded that this film combines both aspects of the A-lister’s multifaceted acting repertoire.

Sure, the Virginia Film Festival has had its share of superstars grace Charlottesville’s gigantic screens, but this film is this weekend’s Valentine’s Day: a romantic comedy with an ensemble cast that unlike that god-awful comparison, isn’t formulaic and doesn’t star Taylor Swift in a fittingly-lovelorn role. Set for wide release in almost three weeks, SLP was described by Festival Director Jody Kielbasa as one of VFF’s pinnacle showings; the Paramount Theater was home to a sellout crowd for the second night in a row (Friday’s All the President’s Men also gathered a sizable, albeit older viewer base) – and luckily, for a good reason.

Pat Solitano (Cooper) has just been released from an eight-month stay at a Baltimore mental health facility in the aftermath of a troubling incident. Summary of said incident: the standard wife-cheating drama gets beefed up when Pat gains the upper hand in a shower-soaked brawl. Diagnosed late with bipolar disorder, he’s at the careful mercy of his parents, the also-mercurial father (Robert De Niro) and the 90s-sitcom compassionate mother (Jacki Weaver). Pat, although traumatized by his actions, remains optimistic that his illness will retreat and that his silver lining will come in the form of a reconstructed marriage.

When Tiffany (The Hunger Games’ Jennifer Lawrence), a young woman with a similar checkered past, bolts into his life, Pat sees a silver-lining. They compare medications, they publicly strain their voices in heated arguments, they waltz? It’s (500) Days of Summer meets Harold & Maude – featuring music by the White Stripes and a substantial subplot involving the Philadelphia Eagles. It’s the same story that’s been retold countless times – some worse trainwrecks than others – but the psychological undertones and the two talented leads deliver something not completely overdone in the rom-com playbook. Oui oui! – James Cassar. 5/5 stars.

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