Happiness Therapy – The Silver Linings Playbook


Happiness-Therapy-Affiche-FranceIn a nutshell:
Little Miss Sunshine is all grown up now (Lawrence) and meets an angry yet charming troubled young bipolar man (Cooper). Will they end up together?
The suspense is killing me. A rather conventional rom-com with a hint of drama served beautifully by a stellar cast.

La comédie dramatique américaine qui fait du bruit est l’adaptation du livre de Matthew Quick, The Silver Linings Playbook, dont Sydney Pollack avait initialement acquis les droits avant que David O Russel ne reprenne le gouvernail. Heureusement Russel suit plutôt la ligne énergique, parfois non conventionnelle, aperçue dans Les Rois du Désert ou même Fighter que celle de l’atterrant I ♥ Huckabees, film qui mérite une vision ne serait-ce que pour savoir à quoi ressemble un foutoir existentiel boursouflé avec Isabelle Huppert et Dustin Hofmann. Happiness Therapy est en conséquence un cocktail plutôt vitaminé hésitant entre comédie et drame, servi par des acteurs au mieux de leur forme.

Ca guinche

Et la forme, ça se maintient.

Pat Soletano (Bradley Cooper très juste porte le film sur ses épaules) sort d’un hôpital psychiatrique où il a dû passer huit mois après avoir tabassé très brutalement l’amant de sa femme, et sans surprise celle-ci ne souhaite désormais plus le voir. Sous l’illusion qu’elle ne veut que lui, il bout de n’avoir pas le droit de communiquer avec elle, d’être coincé chez ses parents (Robert De Niro et Jacki Weaver), de ne savoir que faire de ses dix doigts. Une rencontre inopinée avec une très jeune veuve voisine (Jennifer Lawrence), dont l’état mental est aussi tumultueux que le sien, va les faire avancer et les aider à surmonter leurs crises respectives.

Après un prologue assez original, dénonçant avec une légère complaisance la culture du succès et les antiennes de la vie amoureuse états-unienne, le film finit par se précipiter dans le modèle des plus conventionnelles comédies romantiques américaines, ce qui n’est pas, en soi, désagréable, mais qui transforme une oeuvre qui promettait d’être marquante en une aimable distraction pour samedi soir pluvieux.

Une mise au point énergique s'impose

Aimable, distrayant et parfois ébouriffé

Très belle illustration de ce qu’une distribution affutée peut faire d’un scénario sans génie, et une mise-en scène un rien pataude (les scènes de danse sont filmées à la truelle) Happiness Therapy fait ressortir le talent, et parfois même la grâce des premiers et seconds rôles, certains, tel Robert De Niro, réussissant à émouvoir et convaincre pour la première fois depuis bien longtemps. On s’attache aux personnages car le charisme de Cooper et l’énergie mutine de Lawrence séduisent en dépit de situations de plus en plus factices. On retiendra qu’aujourd’hui aux Etats-Unis, le mal-être est désormais qualifié de “troubles bipolaires”, que la douleur d’un veuvage excuse les liaisons multiples et un parfum de bisexualité, et enfin que le sac poubelle peut être un jogging seyant. Bref, Happiness Therapy est inoffensif et gentiment plaisant.

affiche-Happiness-Therapy-Silver-Linings-Playbook-2012-3En résumé : Une comédie romantique avec des aspects très réussis, qui traite de la maladie mentale sans trop se casser la figure, mais qui n’ose pas réellement prendre son envol non plus. 

The Silver Linings Playbook, an adaptation of the novel by Matthew Quick, gets off to a punchy start. Pat Soletano (Bradley Cooper), a former teacher in his mid-thirties, is about to be discharged from a long-haul stint in a psychiatric hospital, where he’s been in treatment after the sudden breakdown of his marriage. It’s lucky, albeit embarrassing, for him to be taken back to his family home, to his old childhood bedroom, and the care of his parents, Pat Sr (Robert de Niro) and Delores (Jackie Weaver). His sole obsession is to get his wife Nikki back, but as he’s regularly reminded, the outcome of him having severely battered the man he’d discovered canoodling with his wife in the shower to the dulcet tones of their wedding song, is that he is now under a restraining order.

Keeping nervous watch

Keeping nervous watch

Pat is then introduced to Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a very young widow who promises that she can get a message to his wife despite the restraining order and whatnot. This proves the only way to get through to Pat in that delusional-obsessional mode of his which so troubles his family, who just want to do all they can to keep him out of hospital, with the help of his amiable psychiatrist, Cliff Patel (Anupam Kher). This is a tough call, as Pat is often inappropriate and aggressive while in the throes of his obsession, with tragi-comic outcomes. This is all kept within pretty mellow limits however, which helps to keep the rom com vibe going, as well as the audience’s sympathy for Cooper’s character. One of the most talked-about moments is a scene where he comes to blows with his father, who is trying to restrain him. De Niro’s subsequent tears are evidently real, as with the interviews he’s given where he has said he understands only too well what the character he plays is going through.

Scissors, paper, STONE!!

Scissors, paper, STONE!!

Such sincerity is undoubtedly one of the film’s strengths. It tackles the issue of workaday mental illness in open, playful yet sympathetic ways that just wouldn’t have been possible until recently. This is perhaps a side-effect of the tendency of bipolar order to be liberally diagnosed nowadays, not least in the States, in all shapes and sizes ranging from ‘my child likes to run around a lot screaming’ to ‘this person thinks he is the Son of God and won’t stop dashing around the shopping mall naked trying to bless people’. Taboos are getting pushed back (although it’s still pretty delicate). One of the ways this is happening is through the condition’s association with a certain moody romantic poet persona, which is incidentally not unreasonable: did you know (yes, of course you did) that greatly talented individuals over history are widely cited as having suffered from manic depression, sorry, bipolar disorder: Virginia Wolf, Winston Churchill et al. The film props this one up, associating Pat with the complex, troubled, artistic, rebellious Tiffany.

happiness-therapy-25-L-bstghL

Sturm und Drang suburban style

The warm fuzzy factor equally derives from its insistence on community and on taking people as you find them, providing an environment where recovery can best come about. Such things are often catastrophically lacking in society with the break-up of communities in this global capitalist set up we are currently labouring under. So I give props to the message, albeit while reeling from the sentimental overload that emerges, as the rom com cookie cutter slices down. More provocative comedy would have been welcome – more use could have been made of absurdity – it is there, not least thanks to Chris Tucker who keeps popping up as a fellow psychiatric patient.  Sadly as the film progresses, the punch factor starts to wilt somewhat, and the film gradually subsides into a tamer rom-com template, albeit with excellent comic touches.But it should have gone further, been braver still. Oh well.

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Filed under Comedy, Drama

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