There is a fine line between love and obsession, and David O. Russell explores both in Silver Linings Playbook. When our mind is preoccupied with something or someone, we make decisions as a consequence of that obsession. At the start of Silver Linings Playbook, Patrizio “Pat” Solitano Jr. (Bradley Cooper) is looking to reconcile his relationship with his ex-wife, Nikki (Brea Bee). Every decision of Pat’s is in the belief of a future reconciliation. Pat decides to read Lord of the Flies because Nikki taught it as part of her syllabus, and he hopes it will give him a better understanding of her as a person. He also attempts to regain work at the school they worked at together. Pat’s bipolar disorder also affects his choices throughout the film, with moments of uncharacteristic impulsive behaviour and insomnia. It seems he is aware of his illness, but not capable of managing it.
Masanobu Takayanagi‘s cinematography excellently displays what the uncontrollable obsession feels like inside Pat’s head. Whenever Pat hears his wedding song, Stevie Wonder‘s ‘My Cherie Amour’ the camera zooms in on Pat to show how claustrophobic he feels. The song no longer reminds him of his wedding day but a time when he discovered Nikki was having an affair (as the song was playing then as well).
Pat seems in denial of his faults yet critical of others. To begin with, he is particularly condescending towards Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence). She displays how love can hurt when we lose someone, with the grief of losing her husband leading her to sexual addiction. Like an obsession, the dependence on something can take control of our lives. It is understandable why Tiffany seeks the company of strangers because of the intimacy she misses having with her spouse. However, unlike Pat, she not only accepts what has happened, but embraces all the bad things about herself as she states: “There’s always going to be a part of me that’s sloppy and dirty, but I like that. With all the other parts of myself.”
Love is not all about good things. It’s also about embracing your flaws and other peoples’ imperfections. Pat learns that despite all of her flaws, Tiffany is loving and supportive and offers companionship; in fact, he is no better than she is and Pat’s initial judgmental attitude subsides. Love may have the ability to be all sweetness and light, but rarely is most of the time. Silver Linings Playbook displays the ugly side, not in a horrific way but in a truthful, human way. None of us is perfect or better than anybody else. Learning to find the beauty in who we are and others around us is what it means to find real love.