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Film / Silver Linings Playbook

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A 2012 film directed by David O. Russell, based on the novel of the same name by Matthew Quick.

Pat (Bradley Cooper) is trying to put his life back together. He's just spent eight months in a mental hospital on a plea bargain, after nearly beating his wife's lover to death when he caught them in the shower. He's forced to move back in with his parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver) and put up with his father's obsessive and superstitious love for the Philadelphia Eagles. He's desperate to reunite with his wife, but the restraining order makes that a bit tough. And then he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a girl with just as many problems as him who may be the key to solving his own.

This film provides examples of:

  • Above the Influence: Pat resists Tiffany's solicitations because he is madly in love with Nikki.
  • Adaptation Distillation: Possibly due to Tiffany (and maybe the other characters too) being significantly younger than in the book, the time-scale of the film is greatly reduced. (Tiffany and Tommy were married for three years rather than ten, Pat was in the hospital for eight months rather than four years, etc.)
  • Age Lift: Tiffany is around 39 in the book; in the film, she's played by 21-year-old Jennifer Lawrence, though the character has a Vague Age somewhere in her later twenties.
  • All Take and No Give: Tiffany discusses how she can give someone everything and then still feel empty afterwards due to people's habit of doing this. "I do this! Time after time after time! I do all this shit for other people! And then I wake up and I'm empty! I have nothing!" Also lampshaded in that Pat expected Tiffany to give his ex-wife a note, without giving anything in return as a gesture of friendship.
  • Aloof Big Brother:
    • Pat's brother Jake. He even lists his accomplishments in direct comparison to Pat's failures. This is more subverted. Jake does turn out to care about Pat. It's just that he had a rather awkward reintroduction with him.
    • Played more straight with Veronica, who is quite apathetic towards Tiffany.
  • Aloof Dark-Haired Girl: Tiffany is very dismissive of other people.
  • And Starring: Chris Tucker in the CBB.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Pat gives one to Tiffany after chasing after her and giving her a letter.
  • Arc Words: "Reading the signs" is Tiffany's mantra, while "Excelsior" is Pat's.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Tiffany to Pat: "I was a slut. There will always be a part of me that is dirty and sloppy, but I like that, just like all the other parts of myself. Can you say the same thing?"
  • Asshole Victim:
    • The man that was having an affair with Nikki. He even asks Pat to leave (his own house) after he catches them.
    • The guy Pat beats up at the Eagles game was one of a group who harasses and then assaults a group of Indian spectators (along with Pat's brother when he tries to stop them).
  • Awkward Father-Son Bonding Activity: Pat Sr. tries to make watching the Eagles his bonding activity with his son, who has open contempt for his father's superstitions. They make it work eventually.
  • Beware the Nice Ones:
    • Pat is actually a really nice guy. But don't have an affair with his wife. Just don't.
    • Pat Sr. may qualify too. He's nice enough but gets pretty angry easily. He's banned from at least one stadium because of all the fights he's gotten into.
  • Berserk Button:
    • For Pat, it's hearing (or even imagining he's hearing) the Stevie Wonder song "My Cherie Amour". It was his wedding song, and then it was playing on the stereo when he caught his wife cheating on him.
    • For Pat Sr., it's messing with his superstitions.
  • Big Damn Kiss: Between Pat and Tiffany at the end.
  • Big Game: The dance competition at the climax of the movie (and, in the background, the Eagles-Cowboys game). Played with in that they aren't trying to win against the other, obviously more practiced dancers - just score a five.
  • Big Little Brother: Pat is much taller than his older brother Jake.
  • Birds of a Feather: Pat and Tiffany initially bond over their mutual neuroses, recently single status (he's separated from his wife, she's widowed) and interest in running.
  • Black Comedy: The film alternates between poking fun at the characters' troubles to treating them very seriously.
  • Blond, Brunette, Redhead: Veronica is the blond, Tiffany is the brunette, and both Nikki and Pat's mother are the redheads.
  • Blood Is Squicker in Water: In Pat's flashbacks to his vicious beating of his wife's lover in the shower.
  • Brick Joke: Tiffany ambushes Pat twice while he is jogging past her house. It is revealed much later that Pat's mother told her where he would be so she could do so.
  • Broken Bird: Tiffany. Pat practically mentions this trope by name when he's describing her.
  • Brutal Honesty: Pat and Tiffany don't care much for etiquette.
  • Call-Back: The music Ronnie tells Pat is on the iPod he gives him ends up being used in Pat and Tiffany's dance routine.
  • Celebrity Paradox: A scene early on briefly shows the marquee of a theatre on Halloween playing the film The Midnight Meat Train, which starred Bradley Cooper.
  • Character’s Most Hated Song: Pat can't stand to hear his wedding song, as it reminds him of his ex-wife Nikki.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Pat and Tiffany's roadwork exercise becomes useful during the Race for Your Love scenario.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Tiffany really chews the scenery when she is offended by Pat's comments about her mental illnesses (unintentionally on his part).
    Tiffany: You know what, forget I offered to help you. Forget the entire fucking idea, because that must have been fucking crazy, because I'm so much CRAZIER than you! I'm just the crazy slut with a dead husband! HA HA HA HA! Fuck you! (smacks the dishes away, storms off)
  • Cluster F-Bomb: "And I'll take that fucking camera and I'm gonna break it over your fucking head, then I'm gonna come back and interview you about what it's like to get that fucking camera broken over your head!"
  • The Coats Are Off: Tiffany during the dance competition.
  • Cowardice Callout: Tiffany basically tells Pat that he's a coward and is afraid to be alive because of how he's happy to hear about her intense life story but unwilling to live through anything like it.
  • Dance of Romance: Tiffany and Pat.
  • Depraved Bisexual: The reason Tiffany got fired from her job: she slept with everyone in her office, including women.
  • Do You Want to Copulate?: Having No Social Skills, Tiffany propositions Pat for sex pretty bluntly, after he walks her home:
    Tiffany: Listen, I haven't dated since before my marriage so I don't really remember how this works.
    Pat: How what works?
    Tiffany: I saw the way you were looking at me, Pat. You felt it, I felt it, don't lie. We're not liars like they are. I live in the addition around back, which is completely separate from my parents' house, so there's no chance of them walking in on us. I hate the fact that you wore a football jersey to dinner because I hate football, but you can fuck me if you turn the lights off, okay?
  • Down to the Last Play: Somewhat inverted, the final dance has the two performing rather well, but botch the climactic move where he holds her above him (she gets up there, but it is clumsy-looking). That gives greater tension when they are waiting for their score and the last judge rates them high enough to average a 5. The whole dance subverts the trope anyway, as they go in for a personal goal and not to be the best.
  • Downer Beginning: You can see that for the first half of the movie, Pat's not really in a good place. He gets better.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: After Tiffany sees Nikki at the dance competition, she goes to the bar and starts drinking. Pat stops her before she could get drunk.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Let's see: a Stepford Smiler husband and his tyrannical wife; at least two characters with bipolar disorder, one of whom is a woman with a string of suitors who are just using her for sex; an unfaithful ex-wife; a father with OCD and his manipulative and exploitative best "friend"; an Aloof Big Brother...about the only normal characters in the whole thing are Pat's mother Dolores and Dr. Patel, and even the latter is not above deliberately provoking a psychotic episode in Pat in order to study his reaction.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Pat works hard to keep his mental health under control, have his parents win a bet and find love and it works out in the end.
  • Easily Forgiven: Nobody ever really speaks badly about Nikki despite her having an affair in her husband's house to their wedding song, henceforth traumatizing him.
  • Everyone Owns a Mac: A variant, this time with iPods.
  • Fanservice: Although in no way shot exploitatively, Jennifer Lawrence's dancing and her attire while doing so are... eye-catching. There's also a shot (from behind) of her topless, changing.
  • Fanservice Pack: Discussed. Pat apparently was way out of shape before his confinement.
  • Fish out of Water: Pat does not know a thing about dancing before he agrees to enter the competition.
  • Flipping the Bird: After Pat offends Tiffany at the diner, she storms out, and gives him the finger with both hands through the window.
  • Forced Dance Partner: The plot involves Tiffany enlisting her neighbor Pat to be her partner in a dance competition in exchange for her helping him reconcile with his estranged wife.
  • Foregone Conclusion: As the movie takes place in 2008, anyone familiar with the NFL could tell you that Eagles were going to beat the Cowboys and make the playoffs. This also makes the decision not to bet on the Bengals game a good one because that game ended in a tie. So, the football side of the bet is quickly won so the story can focus on the dance contest.
  • Freak Out:
    • A few times, most notably when Pat first catches his wife cheating and nearly beats her lover to death in a blind rage and when he can't find his wedding video.
    • Tiffany has one on her date with Pat which includes Flipping the Table.
  • Friendly Enemy: A couple of fellow contestants at the dance competition are visibly consoling Pat and Tiffany when their low scores are being announced.
  • Funny Background Event: The judge whose score of 5.4 puts the main characters' score over 5.0 on average is the same one who was lowballing all the pros before them.
    • When Pat and Tiffany first meet, Ronnie is standing in the background, shaking his head.
  • Genre-Busting: The closest way to describe the film is a Romantic Dramedy where the leads have clinical psychological issues.
  • Girl on Girl Is Hot: Tiffany relates the story of how she got fired for sleeping with pretty much everyone in her office. Pat specifically wants to know if any of them were women. Some were, and, according to Tiffany, were indeed hot.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Notably averted; while catching his wife in infidelity sent Pat over the edge, there are plenty of references to how his undiagnosed bipolar disorder was already strongly affecting his life beforehand.
  • Held Gaze: Pat and Tiffany share one when they first meet.
  • Henpecked Husband: Veronica "keeps her husband's balls in her purse", which he readily admits.
  • Hollywood Psych: Although the film has been praised for "accurate" depictions of people with mental illness, Pat and Tiffany are particularly extreme examples of patients with bipolar disorder. The majority of people with bipolar do not have public shouting matches or throw things in a diner. No Social Skills isn't a permanent part of having the illness, either— in fact, many people with bipolar disorder are incredibly charming and magnetic while in a manic episode.
  • Hypocritical Humor: When Pat calls Tiffany out for being rude and "[having] No Social Skills."
  • I Reject Your Reality: Pat Jr takes this as his mantra when dealing with the reality of his divorce, for the first three parts of the movie.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Pat frequently says inappropriate and thoughtless comments because of his bipolar disorder, but he doesn't mean any harm with what he says.
  • Insane Equals Violent: This is mostly averted. Of all the characters, Pat is the only one who has displayed violence. Even then there were only a few incidents. One was purely an accident when he hit his mother in the face when she tried to restrain him in the middle of a freakout. Another time was to break up a fight and defend his brother from some racist assholes. One was much more violent, however, as he nearly beat to death the man who he caught having sex with his wife. In his house. While his wedding song was playing. And after he asked PAT to leave. Perfectly sane men would've done the same thing. For the most part, he really is a nice guy who doesn't want to hurt people.
  • Isn't It Ironic?: Pat and Nikki's wedding song was "My Chérie Amour", which is really an unrequited love song to a girl who doesn't notice the singer's existence. Not only is this a bad omen for the marriage itself (and aptly playing on the stereo when he catches her cheating on him), it also foreshadows just how one-sided Pat's attempts at reconciliation are going to be.
  • Jerkass Realization: Pat's brother compares his success to his brother's failings but says all he really wants to do is catch Pat up on how his life is going. You can tell that around the middle of the conversation Jake starts to realize that it sounds like he's rubbing it in.
  • Love at First Sight: Pat fell for Tiffany the moment he met her but he took quite a while to realize it which he admits in his Anguished Declaration of Love.
  • Mad Love: Pat regarding Nikki.
  • Male Gaze: When Pat meets Tiffany, it's from his POV and his eyes start off from her chest. Twice.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Deconstructed. Someone who so fully rejects societal norms may have other reasons besides whimsy. Someone who devotes all their time to fixing someone else may be a Stalker with a Crush or hired by the guy’s family. And someone who will sleep with a self-absorbed manic-depressive they barely know may have her own emotional or psychological problems.
  • The Matchmaker: Pat's mom tells Tiffany when Pat goes running so she can ambush him.
  • Mood-Swinger: Pat, owing to his only recently diagnosed bipolar disorder.
  • Mood Whiplash: The movie frequently jumps between serious matters (Pat's and Tiffany's backstories and disorders) and funny moments resulting from the characters' quirkiness.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Tiffany has this reaction when she realizes that her Freak Out could get Pat arrested and quickly defends him.
  • Never Trust a Trailer:
    • The first full trailer for the film featured Pat's line "I'm my best self today, and I think she's her best self too," presented in a way that implies he's referring to Tiffany; in context, he's referring to Nikki.
    • Another trailer makes it look like Pat started the fight at the Eagles game when one of Jake's friends said something insensitive. In the movie, Pat remains perfectly calm after the friend makes the comment, and the fight is started by some racist assholes who attack his therapist.
  • No Medication for Me: Pat complains about how his pills "make him fuzzy" and he spends the first half of the movie avoiding taking them.
  • No Social Skills: Pat's a Nice Guy with Brutal Honesty, leading him to say very inappropriate things.
  • Not a Date: Pat invites Tiffany to a diner, but he orders Raisin Bran. When Tiffany asks why, he responds: "Because I didn't want there to be any mistaking it for a date." She quickly points out that it can still be a date even if he orders Raisin Bran.
  • One-Steve Limit: Pat Jr. and Sr.
  • Orbital Kiss: The ending.
  • Papa Wolf: Pat Sr shows shades of this towards Pat Jr. In the nosy neighborhood kid's first scene, it's shown that the reason Pat Sr doesn't like him is out of protection of Pat Jr's feelings. Also, in Jake's introduction scene, Pat Sr calls him out on being unintentionally insensitive towards Pat Jr.
  • P.O.V. Cam: All of Pat's flashbacks to when he caught his wife cheating on him.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The film and the book don't diverge much until about halfway through, then go on completely different paths. For example: in the book, the dance competition takes place much earlier in the plot, is organized for troubled teens (making Tiffany the odd woman out in more ways than one), has no prize beyond participation (and has no bet riding on it) and in the end has little effect on the plot's resolution beyond Tiffany and Pat's relationship. Neither does Nikki show up.
  • Precision F-Strike: A couple of times.
  • Properly Paranoid:
    • To some extent; Pat relates an incident where he tried to report his wife and a history teacher at the school they worked at for conspiring against him, which he later recognizes correctly as a delusion. However, he learns barely a week later that they are in fact having an affair.
    • When Pat hears his wedding song in the waiting room of his therapist's office, he immediately assumes someone put it on to deliberately provoke him. One could be forgiven for assuming this is another delusion but in fact his therapist did just that, to test if the song was still a trigger.
  • Race for Your Love: Pat to Tiffany at the end.
  • Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: Averted. People will talk over each other, interrupt and shout louder to get heard.
  • Really Gets Around: From Tiffany's own words, "I was a slut. There will always be a part of me that is dirty and sloppy, but I like that, just like all the other parts of myself."
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Tiffany delivers one to Pat, after he seems offended by being compared to her:
    You may not have experienced the shit that I did. But you loved hearing about it, didn’t you? You are afraid to be alive, you are afraid to live. You’re a hypocrite. You’re a conformist. You’re a liar. I opened up to you and you judged me. You are an ASSHOLE. You are an ASSHOLE!
  • Reluctant Psycho: Pat's story arc is about coming to terms with the fact that he's one of these. The Psycho part of it becomes frighteningly apparent on the night he starts searching the house for his wedding video. He freaks out because he can't find it, wakes up everyone in the neighborhood with his shouting, hits his own mother in the face (albeit accidentally) when she tries to restrain him and then gets into a fistfight with his own father.
  • Running Gag: Pat constantly reminding Tiffany about her husband's death.
    Tiffany: Can we have one fucking conversation without you reminding me that my goddamn husband is dead?
  • Samaritan Relationship Starter: Tiffany is touched when she overhears Pat standing up for her in a conversation with one of her "work friends".
  • Sanity Slippage: Discussed throughout the film.
  • Second Love: Pat and Tiffany to each other.
  • Second Place Is for Winners: Knowing that there is no way they could beat their more practiced competitors, Pat and Tiffany were only hoping for at least 5 out of 10 collective score to win The Bet. They make it and the judges and their fellow competitors are wondering why they are so happy at such a low score.
  • Serious Business: Pat's father's devotion to the Eagles, Tiffany about the dance competition.
  • Sex for Solace: After her husband died, Tiffany started sleeping around. Her husband died on the way home from buying lingerie to rekindle their sex life, which had slowed down. It’s suggested that she was using the sex to feel closer to him again, and might even have been pretending her partners were him.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: Pat tells Danny that Tiffany is her "friend with an F". At first it looks like he's trying to stay faithful to Nikki but his Anguished Declaration of Love near the end makes it clear that he's fallen for her and was just trying to deny it.
  • Shipper on Deck: Pat's mother as well as Ronnie and Veronica all seem to be trying to set Pat and Tiffany up.
  • Shout-Out: To Cinderella. Tiffany runs away from the dance contest, abandoning her male partner, and loses a shoe briefly as she does so.
  • Shower of Love: "I come home from work. I see my wife in the shower... then the History teacher in there with her."
  • Single-Target Sexuality: Pat spends much of the film only attracted to Nikki.
  • Soft Glass: Honestly Pat Sr, when You buy window glass so cheap that a paperback novel is like a brick when thrown at it, you have only yourself to blame.
  • Something Only They Would Say: What ultimately tips Pat off that Tiffany, not Nikki, wrote the letter.
  • Stepford Suburbia: Veronica and Ronnie have some hints of this going on, particularly with the revelation that Ronnie is barely holding together from all the pressure of maintaining the perfect suburban image. They're on their way to work it out after Pat tells him that he needs to confront these fears.
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Tiffany. A good example is the time she first meets Pat. After he walks her home, she offers to sleep with him. Pat rejects, saying that he's married. Tiffany responds that so is she, but Pat counters that her husband is dead. Tiffany cries and hugs him, then slaps him in the face and walks away.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Pat beating the crap out of his wife's lover gets him arrested, sent to a mental hospital, having to attend mandatory therapy as a condition of his release, and with a restraining order against him. While his wife and her lover's actions are never made out to be "right", it's made clear that his violent reaction isn't either.
  • Survival Mantra: Pat tries calms himself down by repeating that he's going to find "silver linings" and turn things around. Also, "Excelsior."
  • Third-Act Misunderstanding: Played straight with Pat withholding his love (letter) to Tiffany, and her believing Pat was going for Nikki after the dancing contest.
  • Throw the Book at Them:
  • Title Drop: A partial one, Pat mentions several times his drive to look for "silver linings."
  • Toplessness from the Back: Pat sees Tiffany changing from behind.
  • Trauma Button: Stevie Wonder's song, "My Cherie Amour" is a trigger for Pat's flashbacks of the time he caught his wife cheating on him.
  • Vague Age: Tiffany is at least 21, but she was also married to her cop husband for three years before he died. Lampshaded when Pat asks how old she is after she propositions him for sex, and she does not give a number.
  • Wham Line: Pat's father uttered a major revelation flat out during an argument with his wife and Tiffany.
    Pat Sr.: I didn't approve when you (his wife) called her (Tiffany) and you told her where he (Pat Jr.) was running so she could ambush him.