Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Vices of the father and the son: bad habits in “Silver Linings Playbook”

Analyzing the unstable relationship between father and son on the film’s 10-year anniversary

“Excelsior”, or “higher” and “ever upward” is the New York state motto, and a phrase Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) repeatedly tells himself after a brief stint in the psychiatric ward. He seeks total rehabilitation after this experience, hoping to regain his ex-wife Nikki’s love and trust, as well as his parents’.

Solitano suffers from bipolar disorder, and when we first meet him in David O. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook,” it’s clear that he’s dealing with an ongoing manic episode, despite his hospital release. He can’t let go of his bad habits; one of them being his ex, as he tries to repeatedly regain what was lost, resulting in a restraining order against him.

Russell’s film follows Solitano as he attempts to win back his ex-wife with the help of Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) who’s his best friend Ronnie’s sister-in-law. She’s a widow with an uncharacterized disorder; tumultuous, emotional and far too spontaneous to digest. However, she means well, and she grows closer to Pat with each passing moment.

Their relationship blossoms out of their shared trauma, both unmarried and suffering from mental disorders. Tiffany promises to deliver a letter from Solitano to his ex-wife under one condition; Solitano has to compete in a dance competition with her. He believes this is a way to prove his betterment to Nikki, and so he gingerly obliges.

As Solitano and Tiffany grow closer, his father (Robert De Niro) is dealing with a bad habit of his own, sports betting. His father wanted to open a restaurant for a long time, yet he isn’t able to because he lost most of his money.

Pat Sr. begins to delve into a career as an illegal bookie, causing his son and wife to question his behavior. As an avid fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, he’s been banned from the stadium, resorted to watching the games from his dinky television set. He bets on the team every week, constantly burning a hole in his wallet and diminishing his dignity. Pat Sr. believes that his son is a good luck charm, one that will finally grant the Eagles a win.

Pat and Pat Sr.’s bad habits linger throughout this film like an inescapable curse. Both characters are presented with alternatives that are good for them, yet they’re too set in their ways to change anything. The restraining order against Pat is nothing but a small hurdle, and he will do anything to be with Nikki once again. Pat Sr. also doesn’t mind that he’s slowly going broke, as he’s extremely reliant on bookmaking and believes that money will be forever accessible in some way.

The parallel behavior of father and son is one of the reasons I love this film, as it truly goes to show that you are your parent’s child, after all. Despite their bickering and strained relationship, Pat and his father are essentially the same person. It’s much more telling if one were to look between the lines, but their dynamic is still obvious at first glance.

The chemistry between Cooper and De Niro only solidifies the twisted love this father-son duo has for each other. Their characters are loud, gruff and stern mirrors of each other. Pat’s actions are never approved by his father, and the arguments that follow are rageful, despite being from a place of love. Russell’s film is one that doesn’t shy away from the nasty, disgusting parts that come with living with your parents. He puts it all on display: the yelling, the hatred and the tough love. Its script is quick and witty, with no room for filler. The story progresses quickly, as each character is intertwined with each other in ways that one wouldn’t think of.

Despite its large star-studded cast, each character has room to grow and develop, resulting in a twisted mess of events that surprisingly flow perfectly. It’s a movie about family that feels like family. From Tiffany’s wild outbursts to Pat Sr.’s hateful remarks at the television, no character is perfect; they all seem to be troubled in one way or another.

Each cast member brings their best, Lawrence especially; she stuns in her leading role. She portrays Tiffany with such anger and passion, making her the standout of Russell’s film. She’s been through a lot, and she isn’t afraid to show it. Her life sucks, yet she’s doing her best; attempting to forge new relationships and tampering with new hobbies. Lawrence is brutally honest, as she feels every emotion that overcomes her character. Not to say the rest of the cast doesn’t stun as well, but she truly knocks it out of the park, garnering her an Academy Award for her role.

Even though all its parallel storylines that may seem convoluted, the film never stumbles. Everything is properly fleshed out, and each character’s arc comes full circle at the end of the film. “Silver Linings Playbook” feels like getting punched in the face repeatedly by those you love and having to deal with the aftermath. It’s hard to move on, yet we are forced to.

Ashviny Kaur can be reached at [email protected].

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