Sometimes life grants a second chance. It is exactly what happens to Pat (Bradley Cooper), a fragile man who’s carrying the burden of mental illness. A long-time ignored bipolarity will fling him in the chasm of psychological instability when he finds his wife with her lover and beats him very violently. Eight months in a mental institute leave a deep scar in his life and coming back home is anything but simple. He finds waiting for him a family and an atmosphere that we could hardly define healthy. A group of more or less crazy characters gravitate around him, while a sort of common abnormality seems to connect (emblematically) everyone who move on the film’s set. We can see an irascible Pat Sr. (interpreted by a sincere and poignant Robert De Niro who recaptures a, Oscar nomination after the one he got in 1992 for “Cape Fear”), who is an Eagles’ compulsive supporter banned from stadiums because of repeated brawls, and Pat’s mother, the only one who seems resigned in keeping an unreserved faith in him. Pat does everything he can to get his life back and to leave behind the madness that threatened to destroy it thanks to a Rebirthing philosophy that will walk side by side with him all along the movie (“You have to do everything you can, you have to work your hardest, and if you do, you have a shot at a silver lining”). Guided by the motto “Excelsior”, he trains hardly, runs through the streets with a garbage bag over his sweatshirt and reads the book given to her students by Vicky (his wife), invoked but distant, who will symbolize the health, the light that Pat sees at the end of his problems. But life, in the end, is strange exactly because it upsets all our plans. It is Tiffany (interpreted by Jennifer Lawrence) who will overthrow and give a direction to Pat’s efforts. Met by chance, the premature and disillusioned widow, thanks to her sorrow and her even deeper insanity, will turn out to be the occasion Pat was looking for and that, maybe, will set somehow his life.
The result obtained by David O. Russel is something more complex than a classic Hollywood’s comedy. The plot develops thanks to crazy and paradoxical events consistently orchestrated by an excellent screenplay able to monopolize the viewer’s attention with its vibrant and biting dialogues. This narrative trend is symbolized by the scene of Pat and Tiffany’s first date during Halloween’s night, when the two, with the purpose of establishing their sentimental distance, order to the waitress tea, milk and cornflakes and initiate an uncensored communication, certainly sick, but also spontaneously authentic in the atmosphere of provincial falsehood of the dinner (not surprisingly inhabited by masks). Another film’s feature, in fact, is the continuous questioning of health concept through the systematic contamination of Philadelphia suburb’s petty bourgeois normality, thanks to an uncontrollable proliferation of situations and characters afflicted by inner lacerations. Certainly the results is featured by the vigorous and important interpretations of the protagonists, above all Bradley Cooper, finally dismissed by his typical role of the handsome boaster, and Jennifer Lawrence, extraordinary in the interpretation of an extra complex personality (and rightly awarded as the Best Actress during the Oscar’s night). However, the narration entrusts its language to a careful and effective direction. The realistic footprint of the filming underlines tensions and feelings that scan the shooting’s breath, thanks to shots that privilege the foreground and put the viewer face to face with emotions. Communication is frenzied and uncensored, characters’ features are nervous, outbursts of anger and tension permeate events, relationships, and a plot that vibrates with the succession of events. Focused on a dramatic theme, the film examines with accuracy the ambiguity (not clinic but existential) of the weak boundary between presumed health and illness. Very far from traditional comedy’s cliché, the film gives us a deeper look and makes us laugh and moves us for its characters far from perfection, able to miss the final step of a dancing performance and to misunderstand each other when everything is next to be solved. But, above all, a message of inextinguishable trust in the value of relationships and family. A hopeful appeal to courage and positivity that reveals themselves stronger than desperation when they manage to go beyond everyone’s weaknesses. Because a careful observer will always find a silver lining.
English version edited by Silvia Accorrà